It lifts depression.
Research suggests that burning off 350 calories three times a week through sustained, sweat-inducing activity can reduce symptoms of depression about as effectively as antidepressants. That may be because exercise appears to stimulate the growth of neurons in certain brain regions damaged by depression. What's more, animal studies have found that getting active boosts the production of brain molecules that improve connections between nerve cells, thereby acting as a natural antidepressant. And a 2010 study found that three sessions of yoga per week boosted participants' levels of the brain chemical GABA, which typically translates into improved mood and decreased anxiety. Yoga can be used to complement—not substitute—drug treatment for depression, the researchers said.