Because exercise has so many benefits, it can be an excellent way to improve your mental health and combat depression. However, getting started with exercise can be hard if you’re suffering from symptoms of depression, like lack of motivation or energy.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get moving that don’t require intense physical activity, as well as things you can do to make yourself more comfortable while you’re exercising to help your body respond to the physical activity and improve your mood over time. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to start exercising to improve your mental health and defeat depression naturally.
Take Advantage of the Psychological Benefits of Exercise
Exercise has been linked with improvements in mood, self-esteem, positive outlook on life, a sense of purpose, optimism, and better sleep. Exercise also is helpful in treating or alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, stress, and addiction.
Studies have shown that exercise may be just as effective as antidepressants. Not only can exercise help you feel better overall but it can also benefit your mental health specifically by helping improve symptoms associated with certain mental disorders such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder (MDD).
Build Resilience By Learning To Cope With Stress
Studies show that learning how to cope with stress can be just as beneficial as exercise therapy in reducing symptoms of depression. In one study, women were given treatment either through exercise or psychotherapy.
After 14 weeks, those who participated in both groups had similar results in improving their depressive symptoms. A few other studies have found that participation in any activity can lead to improvements in mental health because it increases overall positive feelings while decreasing negative feelings.
In particular, taking part in physical activities—like running, swimming or yoga—can produce a marked improvement in your mood by increasing positive feelings while decreasing negative feelings. This helps increase resilience when facing future stressors.
Get Started Today
While it’s easy to see how physical activity can improve your health, it may be less obvious that exercise can also improve your mental health. Regular physical activity boosts mood by releasing natural feel-good chemicals in your brain, increasing self-esteem, lowering stress levels, improving sleep quality, and more.
In fact, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) practitioners often include exercise as part of their treatment plans because they know how effective it is at enhancing mood. The National Institute of Mental Health says people with depression should consider aerobic exercise—particularly walking—as a good option as part of their treatment plan; its suggested patients do moderate or vigorous activity at least three times per week for 30 minutes or longer.
Set Small Goals And Reward Yourself Along The Way
You don’t have to be able to run a marathon or complete an Ironman in order to start feeling better. The trick is not only finding a physical activity you enjoy but building that exercise into your daily routine so it eventually becomes second nature. If you can train yourself to exercise consistently—say, three times per week—it will start having an impact on both your mood and mental health.
This is because exercise increases chemicals in your brain that create positive feelings (endorphins), which leads some people with depression or anxiety disorders to feel better about themselves.
Choose An Activity You Enjoy Doing
The activity you choose should be an activity you enjoy doing. It might seem counterintuitive, but something you hate doing won’t get you as far or feel as rewarding as an activity that feels good in your body. If exercise is already part of your life and you’re interested in how it can improve your mental health, consider choosing one type of exercise from each category below—or do more than one if you like them all!
Once you know what kinds of activities work best for you, add them into your daily routine. Make movement a priority and make physical activity an essential part of your overall wellness routine.
Ask For Help If You Need It
Research shows that 90 percent of people with mental illness also suffer from co-occurring chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes. The good news is that exercise can be beneficial in treating symptoms of both, as well as aiding in recovery. If you’re feeling depressed or just not yourself, get moving!
A 2008 study by Duke University researchers found that older adults who participated in supervised strength training sessions experienced an overall improvement in their mental health. Talk to your doctor about what activities are best for you if you’re concerned about your mental health.
Addressing Underlying Causes Can Be Helpful Too
Exercise is one of many potential tools you can use to help alleviate depression. While it’s important not to self-diagnose, if you feel like you’re suffering from depression, it’s important to consider what might be causing that depression in order to get help.
Just going through an exercise routine may not address underlying issues such as relationship problems or financial stressors that could be triggering your symptoms. Working with a therapist can help you better address those factors.
Exercise doesn’t just work on depression—you can use physical activity as therapy for other conditions, too. Both structured exercise plans (like classes at your local gym) and unstructured workout routines (like running or yoga) have been linked with improvements in mood disorders like anxiety and PTSD.
What Type Of Therapy Works Best For Depression?
Exercising is an effective way to combat depression, but it’s important to understand that no one type of therapy works best. If you’ve been suffering from major depressive disorder or dysthymia, you might benefit from both exercise therapy and antidepressant medication. The same goes for anxiety disorders like PTSD; meds are often prescribed in addition to therapy.
And finally, if you’re struggling with mental illness coupled with substance abuse (like alcoholism), your treatment plan will likely include both exercise and behavioral therapies.
Exercise can help in all these situations because it increases blood flow, releases chemicals in your brain (endorphins) that boost moods, helps build confidence, and provides an outlet through which some people process their thoughts while they work out—all things that improve mental health.
Why Is Exercise Important In Treating Depression?
Exercise can be used as an effective alternative therapy in treating depression. It has been found that almost all of us are living a sedentary lifestyle, but why is exercise important in treating depression?
Exercise can affect our mood, our energy levels, and even how we see ourselves. You don’t have to look far before you find someone who isn’t active or who doesn’t get enough sleep – both of which are considered risk factors for depression. Regular exercise – at least 30 minutes every day – is one of the best ways to combat these issues head-on.
Exercising yourself to a better mood can sometimes feel like an uphill battle. Consider trying out Exerpy to make that battle much easier to go through. You won’t have to feel like you’re going at it alone, and Exerpy will be with you every step of the way.