Exercise and Depression – Can exercise really help to improve your mood?
Depression does not discriminate against gender, age or religion. Cases of depression can be found all over the world. Exercise and depression don’t usually go hand in hand.
And that’s the whole point!
Sounds ridiculous I know, but let’s see how we can use that.
Just 5 minutes of exercise per day can be a dramatic change in your mood trough out the rest of the day. It’s about increasing energy levels and lifting your state, to find greater pleasure in life and fight the symptoms of depression.
Doing some exercise to deal with depression is not meant to replace other treatments, but should be included in a healthy management strategy.
What is Depression?
Depression is a serious medical condition, diagnosed by a medical professional. It is more than a bad mood or sadness which has occurred due to a bad experience. Depression is a serious physical and mental health issue.
It involves regular feelings of:
- and worthlessness.
Exercise aims to reduce these feelings.
Depression affects 1 in 5 women and 1 in 8 men
Symptoms of depression include but are not limited to:
- Feeling fatigued and having a lack of energy nearly everyday
- Feelings of worthlessness nearly every day
- Not going out anymore or not getting things done at work or school
- Impaired concentration levels, difficulties concentrating for long periods of time
- Poor sleep or insomnia
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of interest and pleasure in activities ever day
- Feelings of restlessness, irritability, guilt or unhappiness regularly
- Suffering headaches and/or muscle pains
- Suicidal or thoughts of self-harm
- Significant weight loss or gain
What causes depression?
There are several factors that can lead to the development of depression.
Significant negative life events are very common including:
- long term unemployment
- living in abusive or non-caring relationships
- prolonged stress at work
Other one off life events can ‘trigger’ depression, if the individual is already at risk of developing it.
Personal factors can also contribute to the development of depression including:
- Family history – does depression run in the family and are you at genetic risk?
- Personality – people who worry a lot, have low self-esteem or are a perfectionist
- Serious medical illness – people with chronic pain or require long term medical management
- Drug and alcohol use – it is unknown which causes which
Major depression is considered to be caused by such factors as genetics, severe life stressors, substances and medical conditions which alter your mood.
It is often a combination of factors which contribute to the development of depression.
There are also several types of depression including:
also called clinical depression this type of depression interferes with all aspects of a person’s life.
a severe form of depression where physical symptoms occur and are obvious, such as fatigue.
where an individual loses touch with reality and experiences psychosis.
Antenatal and Postnatal Depression
experienced by women who are pregnant or in the year after giving birth.
Depression is treatable and the earlier you seek help and support the better.
What are the Benefits of Exercise?
“Exercise has mood lifting effects.”
~ Dr Michael Thase.
Numerous studies have been conducted on exercise and depression, indicating that exercise can be effective in treating and managing mild to moderate depression.
They also indicate that exercise could be as effective as psychological therapy or antidepressants.
Studies have also indicated that exercise may prevent depression.
Some of the key benefits of exercise include:
- Improve sleeping patterns
with the right amount of sleep you are less likely to suffer from depression or depressive symptoms.
- Increase daily energy levels
the more exercise you do, the more energy you have to do even more.
- Increase self-esteem
by participating in regular physical activity you feel more in control of your life.
- Increase in fitness levels
with gradual increases in intensity and duration of exercise, you can gain additional fitness benefits from exercise.
- Feeling less isolated and alone
by exercising in a group, with family or friends, we bond and make stronger relationships
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
Depending on how much you currently exercise will affect your ability to participate in different types of activities.
Exercise and depression are inversely related.
Starting an exercise routine requires a bit of consideration, before beginning.
If you have been inactive for a while, it is recommended you talk to your GP about what exercise if appropriate for you.
If you have been depressed for a long period of time you may find it difficult to find the motivation to begin exercising.
2. What are my goals?
Determine what you want to achieve before you begin to exercise for depression.
Based on your goals you can plan a routine to achieve your goals.
You might just want to improve your mood to get through the day, or maybe you want to improve your fitness level to reach a specific target.
3. Do I want to exercise alone or in a group?
Depending on your answer will help determine the types of exercise suitable for you.
If you like to exercise alone you may want to start a routine at home. Home DVD programs are perfect for that. You can start a personal yoga routine or go for walks alone or with a pet.
Exercise can improve your self-esteem and help you feel more in control of your life.
The social benefits of exercise can be achieved by joining group fitness classes or joining a social walking group.
You can exercise with friends or family to gain emotional benefits.
4. How much will it cost?
Using exercise to help you cope with depression doesn’t need to break the bank.
There are many free options to participate in physical activity.
Walking is a great option for the money conscious, or going to a local park to perform exercises like squats and sit ups.
If you choose to participate in group activities there may be a cost involved. However there are usually a range of options to choose from to suit any budget.
Although gym memberships can be costly, just casually attending group fitness classes can be affordable.
5. Do you prefer indoors or outdoors?
For the nature lover exercising outdoors can be far more preferable, whereas others like to be indoors.
Choosing the most comfortable and enjoyable environment for exercise to deal with depression, is very important as it will affect your commitment and motivation.
I suggest to be open minded and alternate between the two, depending on mood and the weather, as variety keeps us interested.
How to Start
Before starting an exercise program to help you deal with depression, it is a good idea to consult you GP, particularly if you have any other medical conditions or are over 50.
The basic rule of an exercise program for someone who has not done a lot of physical activity before or for a while, is to start simple and work your way to higher intensity and duration.
Here are a few tips to get started:
1. Plan an activity you enjoy
exercise doesn’t have to feel like a chore, choosing an enjoyable activity will motivate you to exercise frequently.
2. Choose a time of day
whether first thing in the morning or last thing at night, choose a general time of day to put aside to exercise, but be flexible as life tends to give us all sorts of reasons not to stick to the plan.
3. Gradually increase your activity level
starting with just 5 – 10 minutes of light exercise a day, gradually you will build your fitness to increase the level of intensity and duration of exercise.
4. Get friends and family involved
make new friends with a social walking group, or start your own. Exercise at family visits instead of sitting for long periods of time.
5. Have fun
make your exercise routine in the way that you can enjoy it. Don’t over do it as that will set you back and keep you from continuing. Rather do a lower intensity so you really can have fun doing it!
Types of Exercise
If you’re not sure what activity you would like to do, try ones that you are familiar with first. then move on to some new ones for variety. By participating in a variety of activities or sports, you increase your motivation and fitness level.
Depending on your fitness level there are many activities to be involved in, many have classes or teams for different levels of experience or ability. Exercise and depression both have different types and varieties.
So here are some suggestions of types of exercise:
Group fitness classes
try a group workout at local gym or leisure center.
Aerobics classes – great to improve your cardiovascular fitness
Aqua classes – get in the water, great for summer or hot days
Step classes – improve your coordination and master the step
Weights classes – like ‘Pump’, you can improve your strength
Ab workout classes – to tone your stomach
like conservation and bush regeneration, gardening, weeding and watering plants.
Individual Sports and Activities
go solo and aim to beat your best performance:
- Horse riding
join a local club and play a sport on the weekend
- Beach Volleyball
Exercise and Depression – the 5 minute difference
As stated before exercise and depression don’t really like each other. This is a good news and a bad news.
Exercise and Depression – the Bad News
People that are depressed usually don’t work out. When depressed it’s really hard to find motivation to do stuff. Especially the kind of stuff that may appear hard like exercising.
Exercise and Depression – the Good News
People that work out are usually not depressed.
Exercise and Depression – the Great News
The great news is that five minutes of moderate workout per day will boost your “happiness” levels more or less as much as one hour workout. This is truly phenomenal, because it’s so much easier to be motivated to do just a little bit of exercise each day than to be confronted with long vigorous exercise routines each day.
Guess what, you don’t even have to start with five minutes.
You can start with 10 push-ups which will take you probably about 10 to 20 seconds.
Do do 10 push-ups per day, preferably every morning to kick off today. And do that for about a week.
If you feel like doing another couple of minutes of exercise go for an easy walk. Try to pick places where there’s kids around. Like playgrounds, kindergartens and such. Innocent, joyful “little people” is usually something that brings positive feelings and brings your mood up.
After about a week, try to do 15 push-ups. Maybe add a few sit-ups as well. Most importantly just started and try to keep up.
However if you miss a day. Don’t sweat it You can gradually build up so it becomes a daily routine.
Exercise and Depression – Conclusion
Depression can make us very fatigued and not feel like being physically active at all. Finding the motivation to get out of bed can be a struggle, but know that by regular exercise we can reduce our symptoms.
The more active we are, the more active we become, by doing more, the more you feel like doing.
Just breaking through that barrier of inactivity is the hardest part. So start small and work your way up, you don’t need to be an elite athlete to enjoy the benefits of exercise.
It is thought by many that depression is often caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Through exercise this biochemistry can heal and re-balance itself and return to homeostasis, a neutral place of being.
Exercise also does not need to be vigorous or for a long period of time to be beneficial. Just starting with 5 minutes of low intensity exercise can increase Endorphins and Serotonin levels that will make huge improvement to your mood.
Prolonged exercise routines can lead to the reduction of symptoms of depression long term, reducing the severity of the illness.
A healthy exercise plan should be a part of your recovery and staying well management strategy.
Further assistance and advice may be needed for a full recovery from the illness, and should be sought.
Reach out to your GP or psychologist. Speaking about your issue will also help.
Regular exercise can bring great relief to symptoms of mild depression, incorporate it into your daily routine as part of a holistic health management strategy.
Start today, sit down and plan a daily routine that involves at least 5 minutes of exercise. Write down your fitness goals both short term and long term, remember to be as specific as possible.
Follow the plan for 1 week, then review and progress to week 2 with an updated plan and increase exercise to 10 minutes every day.
Remember, just start it with only 5 minutes per day and go from there!
At the end I have a question for You:
What is your “best” way to deal with the mood swings?