Depression is a debilitating emotional disorder that affects millions of people all over the world. There are several different ways to treat and ease the symptoms of depression, but among the healthiest and most productive treatments is exercise. Learning about exercise and depression may just change your life or the life of someone you love.
How Does Exercise Help with Depression?
Regular exercise does wonders for both the mind and the body. Maintaining a healthy fitness regime can regulate blood pressure, reduce health risks, and enhance your emotional state of well-being.
Physical exercise triggers the release of “feel-good” hormones in the brain that improve your emotional state and make you feel, well, good. Intense exercise releases dopamine in the brain, which results in a natural high that is often referred to as the “runner’s high.” However, you don’t need to go hard in the gym to reap the emotional benefits of a workout.
While high-intensity workouts do provide that immediate relief, low-intensity exercise is proven to be just as good for treating depression and other emotional disorders. Engaging in low-intensity exercise (like yoga or calisthenics) on a regular basis stimulates the release of neurotrophins—proteins that are commonly referred to as “growth factors” that contribute to cell growth and function. Research shows that this benefit has the power to clear your mind and improve your brain function, which in turn, improves your way of thinking. So, even if you’re not ready to dedicate yourself to three hours of extreme weight-lifting every day, you can still improve your emotional state by engaging in low-intensity workouts on a regular basis.
In addition to these direct and immediate mental health benefits, exercise also serves up a myriad of indirect benefits and lifestyle changes that can aid in combating depression. Those who exercise often will experience rising confidence and improved feelings of self-worth as they achieve their health and fitness goals. Courage in one's own abilities will increase, as will social interaction—if exercise takes place at a public gym or rec center—and those who take their fitness regimes seriously will also adopt healthier diets and lifestyle choices to sustain their active lifestyle. Additionally, detrimental habits that are used to cope with stress, depression, and anxiety will have a greater potential to be replaced by healthy coping mechanisms.
All in all, treating depression with exercise is a fantastic decision that will provide you with many, many benefits for years to come.
Where To Begin
If you’re suffering beneath the weight of your depression, it’s likely that the very last thing you want to do is get up and partake in strenuous exercise. Even if you formulate the desire, we understand that finding the will is often easier said than done. We’ve compiled these tips to help you get started on your road to a brighter and healthier life.
1. Start Slow
Nobody expects you to be at the gym breaking records and achieving glory at 5:00 tomorrow morning. As you begin your active lifestyle, it’s important to start at a pace that works for you. Set reasonable goals and partake in the exercises that you feel comfortable with. Even a brisk walk every morning is a great way to clear your mind and get your blood pumping.
2. Do What You Enjoy
Nobody ever said that exercise has to be boring or miserable. Use this opportunity to explore new hobbies and physical activities that you enjoy, whether that includes laps in a pool or a hike in the mountains.
3. Don’t Neglect Recovery
A healthy recovery is key to an active lifestyle. You can prevent muscle soreness, tension, and injury by stretching before and after workouts, soaking in a hot tub after exercise, and getting the nutrients you need to sustain your new active routine.
Following these simple steps may just be the beginning when it comes seeing the mental and emotional benefits of adding a little exercise to your daily routine.