According to the mental health charity Mind, a staggering 1 in 4 people suffer from some form of mental health in their lives - nearly as many people who will be affected by Cancer.
Common mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression do not discriminate against age, gender, class or social standing. They can strike anyone at any time and for those who suffer, it can be a frightening and very lonely experience.
For non sufferers, trying to understand the logical reason why someone could possibly be depressed or anxious about anything - when on the surface their life seems to be well balanced - is almost impossible to comprehend.
The infuriating thing for sufferers is that the onset of their condition, be it anxiety or depression is often NOT logical.Episodes of their condition are NOT rational and they are NOT easily explained.
The hormonal / chemical imbalance within the body may well explain at a cellular level why these conditions affect the mind they way they do, but on the surface, there is an irrationality about these conditions which makes living with mental health so debilitating.
Along with other forms of highly effective therapies such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), exercise has been proven to be a highly effective “drug” to fight a wide range of mental health conditions.
The benefits of exercise for general health is well documented, but it’s effectiveness to help control and relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression is not just anecdotal - but scientifically proven.
When we run, our bodies release natural pain killers called “endorphins” which act effectively like sedatives. They help to relax the mind and reduce stress, much like the way some prescription medication for mental health conditions works - but without the side effects and without the risk of dependence.
In addition to the “chemical” reasons why exercise can help fight depression and anxiety, the escape from the stresses and strains of everyday life and the “me” time that exercise gives you, is an additional form of treatment to help you de-stress, gain perspective and help you manage you mental health.
There are countless documented cases where people suffering from depression have been able to come off their prescription drugs as a result of taking up exercise and although you should always talk to your GP before coming off any medication, it shows there is hope without relying on drugs.
With so many people suffering from mental health problems in silence, blog posts such as this one can be invaluable to help suffers be comforted that they are not alone and that their condition can be treated.
Hearing stories from others who have fought or are currently fighting anxiety or depression really can help, so if you have found that exercise has helped you manage your condition, please leave a comment below.
You never know, your story may well inspire others.