Exercise: The No Drug Option For Depression And Anxiety

April 29, 2017 Kerry Sutton

"FOOD is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and EXERCISE is the most potent yet underutilized antidepressant." ~ Bill Phillips.

Like me you are probably very aware of how important exercise is for your health. On a Saturday morning the walking track at our local Gold Coast beach is a hive activity with people of all ages, walking, running, cycling, doing yoga and Tai Chi. Some even have their own personal trainers to guide them.

So like me you might also be surprised to know that exercise is a relatively new concept in our modern world. It was only introduced to the general population in the 1970s (along with leg warmers and sweat bands) to combat health issues, such as diabetes and heart disease brought on by our modern sedentary lifestyles. Before this only those in the military and competitive sports required the extra endurance and strength training of planned exercise regimes.

Today the spotlight is on our mental health. It seems the convenience of 21st century living has also played a significant role in our escalating rates of depression and anxiety.

Exercise isn’t just a good idea, it’s essential for your mental and physical well-being.


One of the most recent studies aimed at understanding how exercise affects the brain was led by Richard Maddock. Volunteers rode a stationary bike, reaching 85% of their predicated maximum heart rate.  MRIs were conducted before and after to measure the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA – known to be depleted in people who suffer with depression and anxiety.


1.   Exercise activates the pathway that replenishes your levels of glutamate and GABA.

2.  Moderate exercise is comparable to anti-depressant medications – approximately 40 minutes three to five days per week.

3.  Higher levels of glutamate and GABA will enable you to be more in control of your emotions.

And of course there are the other added benefits: losing weight, getting fit, feeling more attractive, and most importantly lowering your risk of life threatening diseases.


   Recognise that feeling unmotivated about exercise is normal with depression – Of course you don't want to be physically active when you feel lethargic and tired. However, exercise produces energy and motivation. Don't let how you feel dictate whether you exercise or not.

   Find an activity you like and can do regularly – Walking, running, joining a sports team, bike riding, yoga, going to the gym or even hobbies like gardening.

   Start small – Set yourself realistic targets. If you haven't exercised for a while consider starting off with a 10 minute walk each day, and build up from there.

   Have a plan – Plan when, what and how long you are going to exercise. Without a plan you will be tempted to exercise when you feel like it. Louise Pontin suggests committing to doing a minimum of 10 minutes no matter what.

   Get an exercise buddy – Consider exercising with a friend. You can hold each other accountable and encourage each other with your progress.


Banner exercise depression anxiety

♥♥♥    This is not anti-medication. Not every person with depression is going to see a big improvement, but most will. It's worthwhile making it part of your daily life. Along with practices such as mindfulness you will be taking back control of your life in a positive way.



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