Pop a pill or pop over to the gym? When it comes to reducing mild to moderate anxiety and depression, research shows that exercise works just as well as medication. A 2007 study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that after 16 weeks on an exercise plan, 45 percent of women diagnosed with major depression achieved remission of their symptoms. Physical activity seems to affect some key chemicals in the nervous system (norepinephrine and serotonin) that are targets of antidepressant drugs, as well as brain neurotrophins, which transmit signals in brain regions related to mood.
Exercise may also boost people's feelings of self-efficacy and promote positive thinking, the researchers say.
Make it happen: Find a buddy! The group in the study that fared the best did a "group, supervised exercise routine" rather than just trying to go it alone. Some experts speculate that group exercise, with its social aspect, may have even more benefits.
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