Feeling anxious or depressed? Exercise can lift your mood


I have some not-so-surprising news to share with you during this pandemic. Exercise will save you from your grumpy, anxious and moody mood. Yes, it will.

You may be asking, how does she know I have been grumpy, anxious and moody? Just a hunch. This crazy, unpredictable world we are living in at this moment is enough to make even the most stable individual moody and anxious. And even a little worried.

The very last thing you want to do during all this is to abandon the rituals that make our lives feel in control. That especially includes exercise.

But even the most dedicated exercisers are losing ground during this COVID-19 mess. I am one of them.

For 10 weeks, I taught two virtual fitness classes a week and regularly participated in some of my instructor’s virtual classes, plus some weekly bike riding — but it was not the same as my normal routine, and some moodiness and worry crept in. And I am not one to get anxious or depressed.

But if you are inclined to be anxious or depressed, you really need to be careful during this time. The uncertainty of all that is happening is very hard to cope with. Even the most stable, unfazed people might backslide with their healthy habits.

    Everyone on this planet probably knows that exercise is mood-elevating. It can change your life. It is indispensable. But when you are asked to stay home for weeks on end, it doesn’t take long to become a sloth watching Netflix while eating junk food. Anybody?

And baking. I mean being creative in the kitchen is just so rewarding. But eating too much is not a mood-elevating habit. It is the opposite.

So, if you have been guilty of less exercise and too much food, you may be feeling less than happy with yourself. But maybe that is all it will take to get your fanny back in gear. The guilt.

Now that restrictions are slowly loosening up, it is time to get back to what you know makes you feel good. Safely, of course. I don’t know about you, but being with other like-minded people, even 6 feet away, while exercising is such a highlight in my week.

We all slip up at some point. I can start to feel my mood slip a little, too. That’s enough motivation for me to get back to as normal as normal can be right now.

If you don’t know that mood-lifting feeling that exercise provides, I suggest you get to know it today.

The outdoors is a great place to start. Nature is another wonderful mood-lifter. So, nature and exercise together might just lift us all right out of our funk.

Exercise releases chemicals in our brains that can alter and improve our moods. To me, there is nothing like getting the heart rate up, getting sweaty and feeling challenged. I find that if I don’t do something active before lunch, then later in the day I become less motivated or find an excuse, or even a glass of wine. In my book, it is best to get moving early in the day.

While this is an angst-causing time in our world, it is best to stay informed with the reality of all that is happening — but not obsessively informed. Otherwise, we would all be hunkered down at home being unruly and fat.

Our moods will lift if we just get back to some sort of routine. While this has been a great time for many of us to hang out more with our families, it’s time to try and take our lives back safely, get moving again, and try to enjoy the summer that’s about to kick off.

Find an exercise you enjoy doing, or a friend you enjoy walking with, or (in my book) an instructor whose classes you enjoy. And you will shake that grumpiness right off, even if for now you may have to wear a mask doing so.

Ann Angell is a certified instructor and personal trainer. She is fitness director for the YMCA of Calhoun County. Her “Fitness Over 50” column appears the third weekend of each month.