Can you really run away from your problems? Is the power of exercise so strong that it should be considered an effective way to fight depression? Well, I will go as far as to say that exercise is an effective and proven stress management technique, which can help an individual fight the blues, while improving general health. To better understand how effective exercise can be in combating stress, let's first look at what stress actually does to the body. Stress does a number on our body, from raising cholesterol production to negatively effecting cortisol levels—an important hormone in the body, which can not only increase abdominal fat but can decrease muscle tissue and bone density. Simply stated, stress can make a mess of your body.

So, rather than resort to a pick-me-up pint of Ben & Jerry's in your freezer, consider a more healthy stress reducer: exercise! While it might seem like a chore when you are feeling low, let's consider some of the benefits. First, exercise can help relieve tension and pent up negative energy. Decreasing this will help you sleep better at night, while allowing you to be more focused during the day. Second, endorphins! We've all heard the word. Endorphins are those natural painkillers that raise your mood and give your body a natural boost. Lastly, exercise will firm you up and help to keep your waistline in check-all while improving you over all health.

Next time you are feeling like you need to chase the blues away, tend to your body and your mind with these 5 mood-lifting exercises:

1. Running: Yes, you can run away from your problems. It’s the quintessential mood enhancer! Running can be done alone or with a group. So, the next time that you are feeling down, throw on your favorite pair of kicks, grab your iPod and hit the road.
Mood booster: Add Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" to the start of your playlist.

2. Dance/Zumba: I truly feel that this is a panacea to beating the blues. The electrifying moves can raise your energy and your spirit in minutes.
Mood booster: Turn on the DVDs with a friend. Not only will the two of your be sweating away to sultry moves, your mood will be heightened from the laughs you will share.

3. Gardening: Go ahead, ivoke the Martha Stewarts within. Being in nature does wonder for the mood. Setting your sights on a rewarding task can keep your mind occupied and provide a feel-good sense of accomplishment. Plus, regular garden chores can burn up to 400 calories per hour, depending on the intensity.
Mood booster: Use this as a time to give your legs a nice, relaxing stretch prior to and after gardening.

4. Yoga: Find your inner zen with a soul searching and stress releasing yoga session. Yoga is a quiet and stabilizing practice that will have your feeling strong and centered, improve your sleep, and allow you to release your physical and emotional stressors.
Mood booster: Check a local YMCA, church, or school for free yoga classes.

5. Kick-Boxing: For some people, getting fast and furious is the key to bringing their mood up a notch. If you want to burn up to 8.3 calories per minute (as per the American Council on Exercise) while kicking and punching out your bad mood kick boxing is for you. Grab a friend or kick butt solo—you’ll engage in a combination of upper and lower body conditioning that will have you floating like butterfly in no time.
Mood booster: Wear red! This color will help to naturally raise your energy level, bringing out your inner "eye of the tiger.”

 

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