The new anxiety medicine: Exercise

Last year, my father made the decision to retire from his job after 37 years of service. I was very happy to hear he was retiring because I had a good idea of how physically and mentally demanding his job was. My happiness quickly turned to surprise when I heard that he was updating his resume shortly after his last day at work . As demanding as his job was, I wondered why he wanted to continue to work. Did performing manual labor for at least 8 hours a day bring him some degree of pleasure? As odd as that question may sound to people of my generation, science suggests that the answer is yes.

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The benefits of engaging in physical activity on a regular basis include:

  • Reduced risk of developing a chronic disease (diabetes, hypertension, etc.)
  • The release of endorphins, which block pain signals to the brain and produce happy feelings
  • Lower tension levels
  • Elevated and stabilized mood
  • Better sleep
  • Better self-esteem

Exercise has even been shown to have comparable results to that of prescription medication in the treatment of individuals diagnosed with depression. Even with all this data, less than half of American adults perform 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity physical activity (i.e. walking) per week. I believe the lack of physical activity is a major contributing factor to the 40 million American adults who have been diagnosed with anxiety related disorders. Personally, the period of my life that was filled with the most anxiety coincided with a lack of physical activity.

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As I mentioned in the initial post on Elementaltampa.com when I completed my undergraduate program and entered the workforce, being physically active was not high on my priority list. I had earned a degree, I had obtained a job, but beyond that my life consisted of sitting on the couch watching TV or playing video games. I quickly became overweight and my self esteem rapidly deteriorated. I do not remember what specific event compelled me to attend my first martial arts class, but I know since then I have become much more proficient at dealing with anxiety. I truly believe developing a daily routine that includes a portion dedicated to physical activity has allowed me to excel both professionally and personally.

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This post is meant to highlight the benefits being physically active can have on individuals dealing with anxiety and stress. It is NOT a post disparaging the use of prescription medication by individuals suffering from anxiety related disorders. I certainly understand and appreciate the need for these types of prescription medication. I am someone who at a young age received professional help to learn how to cope with stress. I did not to need medication but I know not everyone with issues similar to mine are as fortunate. Regardless if you are taking medication for anxiety related disorders or not, it is my belief that incorporating physical activity into your daily life will improve you physically and mentally.

If my Dad is reading this, you were right. Hard work does pay off, in more ways than you think.

 

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