Exercise does a lot more than make you sweat. It builds muscle, strengthens bones, supports a healthy heart, and lengthens lifespan.
Some research on working out suggests it can prevent 35 different chronic conditions, ranging from type 2 diabetes to cancer.
Decades of research also show exercise is a vital tool to manage mental health. Working out regularly can create lasting positive changes in the brain, lowering anxiety, depression, and stress levels.
In a 2020 study in mice, researchers discovered exercise actually increases the brain’s resilience to stress. While exercise doesn’t appear to shape immediate feelings of stress, it helps with long-term coping.
Exercise can also improve people's quality of life while reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, suggests a research review published in September 2020.
The benefits were higher in younger patients and patients who had higher depression symptoms before starting exercise therapy.
In a 2019 study researchers found that, for people who had experienced depression and who engaged in at least four hours of activity a week, engaging in just 35 minutes extra activity every day lowered the odds of developing a new episode of depression by 17 percent.
2. Regular, routine exercise: Exercise probably needs to be completed a few times a week to get the desired benefits. Cramming in a HIIT workout or long run during a stressful period or bout of anxiety isn't likely to be as helpful as regularly hiking or hitting the elliptical.
In a 2018 study, the association between exercise and better mental health was the strongest for people who exercised 60 to 90 minutes three to five times a week, but even people who engaged in mild exercises, like walking for 45 minutes three times a week, saw benefits.