Key endorphins that are associated with the reduction in depression and anxiety are released during and after exercise. This process is called neurogenesis.
Neurogenesis occurs in the brain when you take part in physical activity or exercise. The hormones that are released by the brain during physical activity are the same as the ingredients that are in the medication prescribed by your doctor used to reduce your anxiety and depression symptoms. The endorphins that are released also drastically help you manage your stress levels. Exercise can become your drug-free treatment.
Exercise is great as a sustainable source of these key hormones/endorphins and does not have the side effects of taking daily medication. With exercise, you are completely in control of your mood, and it is you that is making your body feel stronger, more in control and ultimately happier rather than a drug. YOU can build your confidence and your happiness yourself.
There are numerous mechanisms for how exercise can reduce anxiety and depression and below we will outline two:
Endorphin and hormone regulation:
Chronic stress has been linked to reduced release of hormones associated with anxiety and depression. It is suggested that the reductions in these hormone levels reflect not being able to cope with a situation. Not being able to cope with a situation increases the bodies demand for these hormones. It has been proven that regular aerobic exercise increases the hormones in the brain, and has similar effects as antidepressants. Therefore, exercise can help the brain release enough hormones to keep up with the bodies demand. This results in normal levels of the hormones throughout the body and reduced negative mood symptoms during stressful situations.
Self-efficacy (self confidence):
Self-efficacy is defined as a personal judgement of how well one can execute a successful course of actions or deal with a specific situation. Exercise can help one improve their self-efficacy by enabling them to trust their ability to manage potential ‘threats’ or ‘stressors’.
As fitness or function improves the individual receives feedback from their body which tells them they are better able to deal with situations which may previously have caused them mental or physical pain. Therefore, self-efficacy has increased, leading to greater self-confidence and reduced levels of anxiety or depression.
In health science research carried out by Katula, it was proven that moderate levels of exercise as opposed to high or low levels of exercise had the greatest effect when reducing anxiety.