Many people are starting to use exercise as an effective way to keep depression at bay or to better manage it. It’s one of the examples of body over mind.
At first glance this may seem counterintuitive. Depression treatments often encourage us to not be too hard of ourselves and to foster self acceptance. All of this is especially important as it can be a problem just getting out of bed on our lowest days. Depression does after all make us feel that we lack energy and motivation to do even the simplest of things.
So how does exercise feature when we are already energy and motivation-deficient?
Well for starters aerobic exercise, in particular, improves blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It has the added benefit of releasing endorphins (natural feel-good chemicals) into the body. we don’t need to be sweating buckets to experience this benefit from our very own feel good chemicals. Most people can even start out slow and progress to moderate exercise. It provides a side effect free method of improving our mood that is also basically risk free.
This feel-good talk is well supported by science. Researchers have found that patients who walked for around half an hour, every day minus Sunday were able to feel up to 50% less depressed than others who did not exercise. Another research shows that only 3 hours of exercise every week was enough to reduce depression as effectively as many best selling antidepressants. How’s that for something that’s free!!
Experts are starting to understand the importance of liking our exercise instead of buying into the latest fads. Some people are comfortable exercising alone some need the social support of friends to be able to motivate themselves to continuing exercise. Whatever method you choose to use ask yourself the following questions.
- Can I see myself doing this for atleast 3 to 4 days a week?
- Am I measuring any variable for signs of improvement? E.g. speed? Distance? Intensity?
- If I prefer social support do i have a backup plan if my group members drop out of the exercise or are less than motivated?