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It is no secret that regular exercise and fitness routines come with existential health benefits. The physical perks of proper fitness regimes include the sustainability of healthy weight, reduced blood pressure, stronger heart health, and more. The list is almost endless and changes as you age or change environments. However, when it comes to mental health, some people automatically turn to prescription drugs to help them cope with life-stalting illnesses – like depression and anxiety. 


While your personal doctor or mental health physician will certainly advise you on the best course of action in dealing with these illnesses, sometimes a non-pharmaceutical solution is worth a try. In fact, there are many studies that link physical exercise, like cardio routines, to improved mental health. Here are just a few of the many ways that exercise is thought to lead to reduced levels of depression in people of all ages. 


Endorphins are released – running and other forms of cardio are often known to help release endorphins within your brain and body that improve your mood. When your heart rate is elevated through cardio, your body produces and releases higher levels of serotonin – the ‘happy’ chemical associated with health and wellbeing. 


A Distraction is presented – When you are focused on exercise, whether that is through taking a group class or working out on your own, your brain focuses more on the task at hand, and less on the dark thoughts inside your own mind that are causing feelings of depression and anxiety. I have a Peloton bike myself that I use at least 5 times per week. When I am biking and taking the free online classes, I am only focused on one thing – beating my own personal records! 


Offers healthy coping – Often times, people with depression or anxiety may turn to their vices to cope with their illnesses or even to just forget about them for a little while. Drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or eating unhealthy foods are habitual vices that should be avoided no matter your mental health. More often than not, turning to these habits can actually worsen your condition. Exercising is as physically healthy as it is mentally, and serves as a great alternative to those otherwise not-so-healthy activities. 


A confidence boost – Although the physical results of exercise may take some time to notice, I find an overwhelming sense of accomplishment from crushing a tough workout. Setting fitness goals and reaching them is a great way to build confidence and motivation to continue your wellness journey. Confidence also helps you to notice the positives in your life, instead of harping on those negative thoughts you previously had. 


Depression and anxiety are common mental health issues that people of all ages can face, and consulting with a health professional is the best way to determine how to overcome them. Exercise and cardio may be a great place to start. 

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