Exercise is an effective treatment for depression. It’s as effective as antidepressant medication. Here are 5 ways how exercise can provide depression relief.
Trying out an exercise therapy program is an extremely effective way to deal with depression.
But it’s not always easy for people with depression to exercise. Depression can make you lose interest in things you used to enjoy, and that includes physical activity.
The good news is that even small amounts of exercise can help relieve your symptoms of depression and improve your mood. You just need to find an activity you enjoy and be willing to stick with it.
Why Does Exercise Help With Depression?
Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.
It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
For many people, the thought of exercising is a daunting and unpleasant one. When you suffer from depression, exercise can seem like a waste of time. But you actually have more to gain than most people.
Researchers are discovering that exercise is an effective remedy for depression. While most people know that it’s good for your physical health, exercise can also improve your mental health. Whether you’re persistently depressed or just feeling down in the dumps, exercise is definitely worth trying as a method of treatment.
Here are five ways how exercise can provide depression relief:
1. It Stimulates Brain Chemicals That Make You Feel Good
Exercise makes your body release endorphins, which are the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. Endorphins are natural painkillers, and they reduce stress and anxiety levels in the body.
They can even temporarily raise your pain threshold, so you can endure more discomfort without feeling pain. In other words, endorphins help to create calmness and contentment throughout your entire body and mind, reducing feelings of depression.
2. It Boosts Self-Esteem
As we said earlier, when you’re depressed, all you feel like doing is lying in bed or sitting on the sofa all day doing nothing productive. This can make you feel worse about your current situation, and sitting around all day can actually make depression worse.
3. It Increases Norepinephrine
Exercise increases the production of norepinephrine in your brain, which may help fight depression symptoms. Norepinephrine is a chemical that helps regulate mood. It may also play an important role in attention and learning.
4. It Reduces Stress Hormones
Chronic inflammation can make you more susceptible to depression, and when you feel stressed or depressed, your body releases stress hormones that further aggravate the inflammatory response. That’s why exercise has such a powerful effect on mood disorders.
One study monitored a group of people with major depressive disorders (MDD) for 16 weeks. Half the subjects were treated with an antidepressant drug called sertraline — an SSRI similar to Prozac and Zoloft — while the other half did high-intensity interval training three times a week in addition to taking the antidepressant.
At the end of the 16 weeks, both groups showed significant improvement in their symptoms, but the exercise group had fewer side effects and also improved their overall fitness levels.
Other studies have found that regular exercise can be just as effective for treating depression as antidepressants (although it’s best to consult your doctor before stopping any medication).
Another new study from the University of Texas at Austin explains how exercise may help protect your body from stress-induced inflammation, which has been linked to depression and other mood disorders.
The study involved 58 sedentary women aged 25 to 45 who suffered from major depressive disorder. Half of the women were assigned to a supervised aerobic exercise program where they worked out on a treadmill or stationary bike three times a week for 45 minutes at a time. The other half did stretching and toning exercises for the same amount of time under the same supervision.
A month later, blood tests showed that the women who had done aerobic exercise had significantly less inflammation than they did at the start of the study. On average, their levels of inflammatory proteins fell by about 10 percent. (The stretch-and-tone group saw no such change.) The exercisers also reported fewer symptoms of depression than they had when they started the study.
5. It Promotes The Growth Of Specific Areas Of The Brain
New research by a team of scientists at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) suggests that exercise can help fight depression because it promotes growth in certain parts of the brain.
The study focused on a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is smaller in people who suffer from depression. It’s believed that increased physical activity helps reduce symptoms by boosting the size and growth of neurons, especially in women.
“Exercise has been shown to have antidepressant effects, but we know little about how it works,” says Dr. Michael E. Irwin, senior author of the study and professor of psychiatry at UCSD School of Medicine. “Our findings suggest that exercise activates the brain’s natural neuroplasticity — its ability to adapt and change — which is likely to be one mechanism underlying its positive effect on depression.”
How Do I Exercise When I Have Depression?
Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce or prevent depression. It releases endorphins, which improve your mood and give you energy.
The benefits of exercise are numerous. Not only does it boost your energy, but it also helps you sleep better. It improves your overall health and can help you become more productive at work or home.
Exercise is also a great way to meet new people, especially if you join a class or a team sport like volleyball or basketball.
There are many different ways that you can get started with an exercise routine. Here are some tips that will help you get started:
1) Find An Activity That You Enjoy Doing
When you have chronic depression, exercising can feel like a chore — especially if you’re not used to it. Exercise doesn’t have to be boring! Find something that’s fun for you and stick with it.
The most important thing is to find something that motivates you enough so that it becomes part of your daily routine. If running on a treadmill isn’t fun for you, then try swimming laps in the pool instead. There are many different forms of exercise out there so experiment until something clicks!
2) Set Goals And Make Them Achievable
Set small goals so they don’t seem overwhelming when starting out – i.e “I’ll run for 10 minutes today” rather than “I’ll run for 2 hours today.”
Depression can make it difficult to get motivated to do anything, let alone exercise. But even mild exercise can help improve your mood — so much so that some doctors prescribe it for their patients with depression and anxiety.
If you’re not feeling well, it’s OK to start small and work your way up to 30 minutes of daily physical activity. Even light activities like walking or gardening are beneficial. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work. Park farther away from the entrance when you go shopping. Or take a 10-minute break in the middle of your day and walk outside.
If you have more severe depression, you may need professional help before starting an exercise program. Let your doctor know right away if you have side effects such as pain, swelling, dizziness, or nausea while exercising. If those symptoms persist, stop the activity until they go away.
3) Think About Exercise As Medicine
Exercise is medicine for your mind and body. It may help ease your depression and make you feel better, both mentally and physically. Regular exercise can also reduce anxiety, stress, and symptoms of panic disorder.
Many people find that exercise helps them manage their moods.
4) Find ways to get moving that don’t involve going to the gym. For some people, walking around the block is a great way to get started. If you feel like you can handle it, try Exerpy. Yoga, Pilates, and dance classes are good options because they’re easy to modify and don’t require a lot of coordination.
When you feel depressed, getting out of bed can seem impossible. Exercising may be the last thing on your mind. But physical activity is a powerful depression fighter—and one of the most important tools in your recovery arsenal.
Many studies show that people who exercise regularly benefit from a positive boost in mood and lower rates of depression.
Exercising is great for everyone — not just people who have depression — because it helps keep your brain and body healthy! Studies show that people who exercise regularly tend to be happier and less anxious than people who don’t exercise. So if you’re in need of a little pick-me-up, try going for a short walk or doing some sit-ups!
If you’ve been dealing with depression or anxiety, consider trying out Exerpy. It stands for exercise therapy for mental health and is a potent defense against depression and anxiety. Now that you know 5 ways how exercise can provide depression relief, it’s time to give it a try!