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Busted: The Myths About Anxiety, Depression, Stress & Exercise

By Guest Author On January 23, 2011 Under Improve Your Self Esteem

The title of this article certainly seems a little strange, I admit! Exercise is vital to maintain good health and most of the time, the benefits of exercise far out-weigh the drawbacks. But if you suffer from a stressful or a depressive illness, exercise can actually make you feel worseand is actually one of the worst ways to relieve stress, anxiety & depression. Why is this so?

I’m sure you’ve heard the following statement over and over again: exercising regularly will help reduce stress, depression and anxiety. This is not completely true. Because there are several kinds of exercises that merely make these problems worse. If sufferers perform the kinds of exercise that do help with stressful illnesses, any benefits gained will only last for a short period.

Taking brisk exercise for around 20 minutes causes the brain to release endorphins into the system, giving rise to the belief that exercise can be helpful in conquering stress, depression and anxiety. These endorphins are neurotransmitters that produce a feeling of well-being.

When you are in the middle of a stressful illness, you can take regular exercise but it doesn’t make these problems go away. The only way to beat these illnesses is to treat the root cause: flawed modes of thinking. Your physical health will benefit greatly from exercise, but it just doesn’t tackle the root cause of stressful illnesses.

Even when I was enduring a painful episode of anxiety and depression during the year 2000, I exercised as often as I could. I’d do weight-training workouts at least twice a week. Lifting weights is a kind of exercise that may fuel stressful illnesses as you are able to brood about the events and issues currently troubling you. Bike machines and treadmills I’d use to warm-up and warm-down. Exercising on these machines is easy and again, you are able to brood over issues and events.

Circuit-training classes was another exercise I’d do often. As you’re listening out for instructions and performing sequences of exercises at a high tempo, you don’t have time to dwell on your troubles and worries. However, after the session, I again started performing the harmful ways of thinking at the root cause of stress and its related illnesses, and that is the problem here.

Exercising did very little – if anything – to stop me performing these flawed thought processes.

Be alert to what is going on with you when you’re exercising. If you don’t have to concentrate when you’re exercising, you can begin to brood on your problems. For example, going for a walk or a run, sessions on bike machines, steppers or treadmills. More helpful stress reduction techniques would be performing exercises that are intense or with an element of competition as you’ll need to concentrate. Circuit-training worked for me, so did sports like soccer and badminton.
The aim is to perform exercises where you cannot brood over trials and tribulations to give you a break from flawed modes of thinking. Additionally, your physical health will benefit enormously!

The fact is that exercise will only bring temporary relief and it is vital to realize this. Addressing the hurtful ways of thinking is the only way to find lasting relief from stressful illnesses. And, just as physical exercise benefits our bodies, mental skills leading to better modes of thinking will bring enormous benefits to our minds.

Here’s a quote that hits the nail right on the head:

“Thought can make you; thought can break you.”  – Swami Sukhabodhanada

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