^pBy Gregory Whyte
The Cultural Center of Charlotte County’s Fitness Center
Anxiety, like fear and anger, is an emotion. It is characterized by unpleasant feelings of worry, fear, dread and uneasiness. It is a state of inner turmoil that is caused by a threat or event that is only anticipated. In other words, unlike the emotion of fear that results when a threat is real or eminent, anxiety exists when a threat that is unreal or unfounded is allowed to fester and affect one’s life negatively.
Depression is characterized by a period (or periods) of low mood. A person in this state will, normally, lose interest in many of the pleasures of life and will experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, worthlessness, etc. In addition, that person will experience physical and mental problems that could lead to poor health and, in some cases, suicidal tendencies.
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2005–2010, adults with depression were more likely to be obese than those without depression. Furthermore, the proportion of adults with obesity rose as the severity of depressive symptoms increased.
Cancer survivors are another group that are impacted by anxiety and depression. According to data secured from the CDC, between 2010 and 2013 (in the United States), about 17 percent of cancer survivors took medicine for anxiety, 14 percent took medicine for depression, and 19 percent took it for both. On the other hand, only about 9 percent of people who never had cancer took medicine for anxiety, 8 percent took medicine for depression and 10 percent took it for both. All in all, about 2.5 million cancer survivors were taking medicine for anxiety and depression.
The good news is, both anxiety and depression can be effectively managed. Furthermore, a component of most programs that are designed to manage both conditions is exercise. The effectiveness of exercise as a tool to manage the symptoms of anxiety and depression is due to the following:Exercising the body regularly conditions it to deal with varying degrees of stress. This conditioning not only helps to keep anxiety and depression at bay, but it also helps the body cope with the symptoms of these conditions should they develop.
Endorphins (chemicals in the brain that fosters sleep and suppresses pain) are produced during exercise. These chemicals are able to lessen the impact of stress and other symptoms of anxiety and depression.
When anxiety and depression are at their worst, exercise can become that special weapon used to improve one’s mood, lessen stress and tension, facilitate sleep, refresh and stimulate the mind, energize the physical body and make one feel good about him or herself.
Studies show that exercise used to combat anxiety and depression do not have to be intense or even lengthy. Ten minutes of brisk walking could be as effective as a workout that is 40 minutes or longer. The key is to activate yourself regularly and allow the exercise or activity you do to counter the negative effects of anxiety or depression.
Other studies also show that sedentary people are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than people who are physically active.