Combating Anxiety & Depression with Exercise

This post expresses the views and opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily that of Perry Hall Patch management or staff.

The topic I’m writing about this week has been on my mind a while. I
want to be very careful with my words because the people who can relate
to what I’m about to say are already suffering quietly behind their
computer screens, and nobody knows what they’re going through. I’m
talking about anxiety and depression.

Depression and anxiety are silent killers that destroy happiness,
relationships, careers and, in extreme cases, people. The causes may be
different for each person, but the results are the same: hopelessness,
isolation, shame, and lives lived halfway, watching from the sidelines
as others enjoy celebrations, adventures, and everything else that
brings joy.

Help is out there, but many people don’t seek it. Maybe they’re
embarrassed, maybe they don’t think they can afford it−or maybe they
just don’t realize they need help.

The Heavy Weight of Mood Disorders

Anxiety can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By simply believing
terrible things are coming tomorrow, we ruin today. And most of the
things people worry about are things that they have no control over or
things that will never happen. Often, they’re awful things we’d rather
not think about. Yet we dwell on these potential catastrophes, over and
over and over.

A lot of people don’t catastrophize particular scenarios, but live
with a constant sense of dread. Insomnia, an inability to connect with
others, and an inability to experience enjoyment are commonly reported
by anxiety sufferers. Anxiety and depression are thieves that steal away
people’s lives on a minute-by-minute basis.

Of course, anxiety and depression aren’t the same for everyone. They
occur along a spectrum, so while some people may need to speak to a
medical professional, others may be able to try to improve their
situation on their own. For those people, I can’t offer a cure, but I
know of some things that might help.

Prayer and Meditation

I’d be remiss if I did not mention this first. My goal here isn’t to
preach the Gospel to you, but if you have questions about my Christian
faith, please do not hesitate to ask. Prayer is my go-to when worry
overwhelms me.

If you’re not interested in prayer, meditation may be helpful. The
benefits of meditation are based on science, and among the most
important are stress reduction, anxiety control, and emotional health.

Mediation doesn’t take any special training. There’s no secret to it.
All you have to do is close your eyes and try to clear your mind by
focusing on your breathing. Try to cultivate an "attitude of gratitude"

If you are struggling, I hope you give prayer or meditation a try.
You have nothing to lose from taking a few minutes out of your day to
sit quietly and concentrate on the good things in your life. 

Image removed.
Photo courtesy of hopetocope.com


Of course you knew I would talk about training. A lot of sufferers of
mood disorders tell me coming to the gym helps them feel better.

Training changed my life, as I’ve spoken about many times, and I’ve
seen it change the lives of others. But don’t take my word for it: the
psychological benefits of exercise are a proven fact. Physical activity
improves brain function, and that’s why, “for some people, it works as
well as antidepressants.”

Getting started is the hardest part. I recommend you make yourself a
promise to do something for 30 days. Your goal can be something easy,
like going for a daily walk or it can be a little more challenging, like
taking a weekly kettlebell class or lifting a heavy barbell off the
ground. Once you meet your 30-day goal, you’ll have laid the groundwork
for a new habit that will benefit you for years to come.

Start to increase the intensity of your workouts as soon as possible.
Do both cardiovascular and strength training exercise. Part of the
benefit of using kettlebells in particular is that it is both cardio and
strength, and you can emphasize one or the other simply by adjusting
the weight, reps and/or rest periods.

Keep in mind that some exercise is better than no exercise. You don’t
need to workout for an hour to reap the benefits. Sometimes just
getting to the gym is a win, and you’ll feel better for it.

Give Yourself Permission to be Imperfect

Allowing yourself to recognize and feel the emotions that come with
depression and anxiety is the only way to work through them. Meditation
and movement are not a miracle cure, but they can help you manage your
mood disorder. Challenge yourself to take a class. And, no surprise, I’d
suggest a kettlebell class. You have nothing to lose by giving it a

Maybe you’ll miss a day or two. Lots of people do, and they often let
that day or two turn into a month or two, and then turn into forever.
Don’t let that be you. Even if you don’t feel like it, force yourself to
put on your sneakers or drag yourself to kettlebell class. You know
you’ll feel better after you’ve lived up to the promise you made

I can promise you that coming to the gym will definitely improve−and maybe even save−your life!

Image removed.
Photo courtesy of globalwoman-magazine.com

Personal Testimonies

This article was created with the help of no fewer than 6 people.
I have included an email from one of them below because I believe the
personal testimonies speak louder than my words ever could. Thank you to
all who encouraged this article and gave your feedback to the

Dan Cenidoza

Professional Performing Strongman

Owner of Baltimore Kettlebell Club

"I have had depression for over 15
years now. I treat it with Prozac which I take daily. I HATE that I have
to put chemicals in my body on a daily basis but I know I need them to
function as a normal person.

Depression for me is like having
all the life sucked out of you. Like everything I do is a struggle. I
don’t want to do anything, go anywhere, or even talk to anyone. I just
want to be alone and sleep.

I image it might be similar to how
you feel when you are bending steel. Not the exhilarating part when it
actually bends but when you over and over and over again push as hard as
you can and nothing happens. You just keep pushing. Like pushing a
giant boulder up a hill with everything you do. To get out of bed is a
struggle, to go work is a struggle, to pretty much do anything is a

When I’m in this mindset, I push just to make it to the
next thing to push too. I struggle to get to work, once I get here I
convince myself to push til lunch, after lunch I push to the end of the
day. It’s constant and it’s completely exhausting.

The only thing
I want to do is sleep. Literally all the time. I just want to close my
eyes and sleep and not have to push to even be me. This often turns into
a vicious cycle because the more I sleep, the more I want to sleep.
Food for me is a quick mood booster (which is a completely different
issue) but quickly feeds into my depression mind.

So how does exercise help – at Baltimore Kettlebell Club it helps several different ways.

Just walking into the door at BKC makes me feel better. It’s like
church. I just feel better being there. It’s a safe nurturing

2. The people there make me feel like I belong,
happy, important, welcome, cared about. All the warm and fuzzy feelings
help tremendously when all I want to do is beat myself up and be alone.

3. The exercise itself – moving, getting the blood pumping,
challenging my abilities. They all make me feel alive physically which
almost always helps make me feel alive again mentally.

4. When
I’m done, it often feels like a huge accomplishment that I was able to
push myself to even show up and put the work in. I’m proud of myself and
I don’t give myself very much credit but especially when I’m down. But I
know you will except nothing but the best of my ability and I take
pride in myself that I try to do the best I can and you push me to do
it. In my head I hear you say – NO, you can NOT use a pink bell. Grab
the 12, 14, Hell! get the 16.

The anxiety is fairly new for me –
maybe about 2 years. Looking back, I’m positive I was having anxiety
attacks and dealing with anxiety much longer, I just didn’t know what it

The anxiety attacks I have usually go in a cycle. I get the
over anxiousness then severe depression/exhaustion. The anxiety attack
usually makes me feel like I just can’t be in my body anymore. I feel
like I need to get out.

Anxiety forces me to say things like – I
can’t do this anymore! I Can’t! I just Can’t! Physically for me if feels
like when you get a cold chill that runs up your spine. That burst of
energy that goes through your body.

With a cold chill, it’s
leaves almost instantly. With anxiety, it stays. My entire body feels
all that energy all at once and it doesn’t leave nor does it have any
where to go.

My mind is racing, my blood feels like it’s racing,
my emotions are all over the place – I’m on complete overload. The
feeling of “I have to get out” is what gets me moving.

Normally I
just run. I don’t normally run but if I am at a certain point, I just
have to run to burn energy. Almost as if my body physically needs to
catch up with my racing mind.

After running I usually feel
completely exhausted and empty. Then the depression and the exhaustion
kicks in and I sleep. Once I left work because I just couldn’t any more,
got home ran around the park until I was completely drenched in sweat
pretty much until my body was done, then showered and I slept from about
10am to 6pm. I woke up to have dinner then went back to sleep by 7pm
and slept until 7am the next morning.

There was another instance
where I was in the “exhausted” phase, I was so tired but pushed to go
to work because that’s what we have to do. I almost fell asleep at the
wheel of my car more than once on my way in. It’s a drive about 10/15

So how does exercise help –

1. Regular exercise
helps to calm the “over energy”. By the time I’m finished at BKC, my
energy is well spent. I feel that regular exercise keeps me on level

2. The classes give me proper exercise to maintain a
balance of energy within myself as opposed to running around the park
until my heart feels like it’s going to explode.

3. Working
with you, the kettlebells and the weights, forces me to push myself
physically which helps me mentally. I CAN not I can’t and even if I
can’t, at least I tried.

4. Mentally I am only able to think
about my workout while I’m there. My mind doesn’t have the opportunity
to run away so I know being there exercising, I’m helping to keep mind’s
sense of calm and focus.

5. Breathing – I’m reminded of how
effective breathing helps me to recover. I practice that when I think
I’m going to pass out from a good work out which helps when I’m feeling
anxious, I turn to my breathing first always."

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