Fitness for Mental Health

brain jump rope2As someone who has suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and depression for 15+ years, this topic is an important one for me and one of my main reason for becoming a personal trainer & health coach.

Fitness has changed my life.

…and I’m not just talking about my appearance or my strength, I’m talking about how fitness has brought me from an anxious, depressed state to a positive, confident and more outgoing person. Of course, it didn’t happen over night but I can honestly tell you it didn’t take long for the mental health benefits of exercise to kick in either!

Anxiety was a daily thing for me, going out anywhere had me riddled with fear yet I had not had a panic attack for nearly 10 years. That was until Christmas 2013. I’m not sure if it was the stress of the Holidays, the fact I was hosting this year or the sad reality that it would be the first year without my dear Grandparents, or all of the above, but my anxiety was kicked up a notch and it quickly turned into insomnia and full out panic attacks.

Within a few days I felt like I was losing my mind, which is common when you haven’t slept more than 3 hours in 4 days and are experiencing non stop anxiety, and I knew I had to make a drastic change quick as I was spiraling into a deep depression, something I just cannot have being a single mom of two kids. So, I decided that the next time I woke up at 3 am to a panic attack I would work out as a distraction. It started with the basics; pushups, squats, crunches etc…within a few minutes my anxiety eased off and my concentration was on my form and breathing. It was a temporary solution at first which worked in the moment.

Fast forward 1 year…

I have never felt better in my life. With daily exercise and proper nutrition I haven’t had a panic attack and rarely feel anxious (first dates will have you anxious no matter what 😉 ) in just over a year! Depression is a thing of the past and my self confidence has definitely risen.

This isn’t just for me. This can work for you too, if anxiety, depression or even low self esteem has got you down, and here is why:

Exercise has been proven to help boost the release of endorphins which make us happy and put us in a better mood. During exercise the increase of neutrophils and monoamines, (neutrophils are white blood cells that assist the immune system and monoamines are neurotransmitters) work to reduce the symptoms associated with depression.

Exercise can help to reduce and even eliminate anxiety by reducing the sensitivity to the fight or flight response which induces fear in those who have heightened sensitivity. Because having anxiety usually leads to panic disorder, or vice-versa, it can help to reduce panic attacks as well.

Another great benefit of regular exercise is that it can help to improve sleep which in return can help reduce insomnia, anxiety and depression.

Starting can be hardest part for someone with anxiety or depression but once you get going and start feeling the amazing benefits regular exercise has on your mental health you wont ever want to stop!

Now go do some jumping jacks and get happy 😀