Is exercise as good as medication for reducing anxiety?

October 10th is World Mental Health Day.  I'm glad to see the spotlight shine brightly on mental health, since the 30% of us suffer from anxiety at some point in our lives.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in looking out for our kids, our spouse, or our career, that we forget to take care of ourselves.  

It's a noble trait to be selfless and put everyone else first, but it's good to remember that by taking care of our body, we create the strongest, most vigorous version of ourselves so we can be of the best service to those we love.  

Here's something that may surprise you.  Exercise can be as good (or better!) as meds to help reduce anxiety.  According to an analysis of 128,119 individuals in a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine:

People in the study who engaged in physical activity routines for up to 12 weeks were 1.5 times more likely to see improvement in depression, anxiety, or psychological distress compared to people who were treated with therapy or leading medications.

That stat is impressive.  But it's also not surprising.  As I write this note early on a Saturday morning, I can see the effects first hand. 

It was cold and dark at 5:30 am here in Colorado when I got up this morning.  I didn't feel very inspired to do anything.  But I hopped on the bike for a quick ride (indoors) and 30 minutes later my heart rate is elevated...and my mood is better. 

I feel more confident, and the day's challenges seem more manageable.  Not to mention I've improved my heart health and reduced my risk for disease including type 2 diabetes and cancer.  There are worse ways to spend 30 minutes out of my day!

And maybe more surprisingly, even after getting a good sweat going on the bike, I actually have MORE energy now than when I started.  It's amazing how that works!

Exercise is medicine.  And its only side effects (like extra energy) are positive ones.  

I'm not saying there isn't a role for meds.  Just that there's also a role for exercise, and it's just as important.  Maybe even more important.  So as we shine the spotlight on mental health, let's also shine it on the importance of exercise.  The two are more connected than we think.

So remember that it's ok to be a little selfish and take some time for yourself.  Put on those walking shoes and head outside (or clip in and go for a ride)!

Be good to your self!

Todd McGuire

Founder, Todd's Power Oats

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