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Exercise for mental health


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In college, I was involved in a large-scale study measuring the effects of exercise on anxiety and depression. As a participant I was required to exercise 30 minutes three times per week, keeping my heart rate above a certain level for the full 30 minutes. The heart rate control always meant that I was actually exercising for longer than 30 minutes, as it took some time to get my heart rate within optimal range.

As part of the study we were required to fill out occasional questionnaires self-reporting our anxiety levels and any depressive symptoms. Beginning the study, I had assumed that there was a positive correlation between exercise and an increased sense of well-being but I also was surprised to see the difference in my self-reported sense of well-being from the beginning to the end of the three-month study. At first, the changes were subtle, and I can’t say that I noticed much difference, but I ended up in a much better place mentally.

What is your experience with the positive psychological benefits of exercise? Have you found there is a specific amount of time or a certain number of days required to reap any mental benefits? In your opinion are there certain types of physical activity that seem to work better for things like anxiety and depression?


In my experience, exercise has always put me in a better mood than I was in prior to exercising. I’ve never thought about a specific threshold of time that gets me feeling this way, but if I could pinpoint a time in which I started feeling “better” mentally, I would say probably 20-30 minutes.

I’ve always been told, and have experienced myself that walking is an excellent form of exercise, especially when surrounded by nature. It’s usually rather relaxing, carefree, and can put your mind in a better place.

As a person with asthma, I don’t really participate in vigorous exercise. I find that by doing so, it sets off my asthma and increases my levels of anxiety due to how I feel physically. I’m sure that if I did a little bit and increased the time slowly that I would likely be able to overcome this, but it becomes difficult when weather, pollen counts, and humidity have to be taken into account as well.

I’m sure that for others, various types of exercise might reap higher or lower mental benefits when being compared, as you said with the heart rate levels. For me though, I prefer a leisurely walk or perhaps a brisk walk, depending on the conditions in the environment. But overall, walks always make me feel better.