Exercise obviously develops physical benefits. But did you know it can also help you lower stress and anxiety and beat depression? This happens because of how your brain rewards you when you experience physical exertion of any kind. In layman’s terms, your brain releases “feel good” chemicals when you experience physical stress. That means that simply walking, lifting weights, cycling, working in your garden or hitting your paddleboard for some fun on the water can reward you not only physically, but mentally as well.
So, how much exercise delivers this mental reward? Do you have to spend 2 or 3 hours a day working out and sweating to keep depression and stress at bay?
Not as much as you might think.
The key is not in how long you exercise, but HOW you stress your body. When you enjoy moderate to intense levels of physical activity, your brain releases the hormones and chemicals which fight depression, stress, and anxiety. This means as little as 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise just 3 to 5 times a week can boost your mood and lower your stress levels.
If you alternate short bursts of intense physical activity with short periods of level low levels of intensity, this high-intensity interval training (HIIT) releases even more endorphins and natural chemicals to elevate your mood.