Issues and Challenges

Physical Exercise to Fight Depression

We all know that exercising regularly has countless benefits and it reduces the risk of developing several diseases. But do you know that exercise triggers feel-good chemicals in our brain that help eliminate depression? If you feel intrigued by this question, let’s delve deeper into it. Just as a healthy mind encourages you to adopt a healthy lifestyle and have a healthy body, similarly, individuals reported to have higher levels of happiness are connected to having a healthy body. Research proves that happy people tend to be healthier people. Individuals with good health tend to be more physically active and socially connected — two factors that further contribute to the overall health and wellbeing of individuals that generate positive emotions.
Depression and Exercise 
Depression is a leading cause of mental health illnesses across the globe. More than 264 million people suffer from depression worldwide (World Health Organization, 2020). Research has proven that treatment approaches such as psychotherapy and medication are effective in treating depression but lifestyle interventions like exercise can also reduce depressive symptoms and improve our overall mood. Depression can cause severe fatigue and make the simplest tasks, such as getting out of bed, too difficult to manage. This results in an individual feeling emotionally exhausted. Exercise, on the other hand, motivates us to move and activate our body. This naturally breaks the vicious cycle of lethargy, inactivity and low mood. Exercise releases chemicals called endorphins in the body, which create strong emotions of happiness and calmness. Research shows that walking for an hour or running daily for a total of 15 minutes can reduce the risk of developing depression by 26%. Engaging in regular exercise also refreshes the mind, which allows us to get away from the negative cycle of worries and depressive thoughts.
When we want to achieve something new, we may expect some roadblocks. A person feeling depressed is more likely to experience fatigue and have trouble falling asleep. Research suggests that many people with depression and other mental health conditions, such as bipolar disorder, experience both insomnia and hypersomnia. This may possibly be the reason for him/her to see exercise as a burden because they are always low on energy.
Benefits of Exercise 
Better sleep: Studies have found that regular exercise can improve sleep quality and can decrease the severity of sleep disorders. Improved sleep can also help alleviate depression and have a calming effect on the mind. 
More energy: Experts say that exercise helps increase calm energy. Have you ever noticed how lack of activity makes you feel more lethargic? Exercise increases your energy and will naturally improve your mood. 
Better coping strategy: Once you know how beneficial exercise is to fight off depression, there is no going back. It is a very healthy alternative to unhealthy coping strategies, such as resorting to drugs, excessive sleep, internalizing issues or lashing out. It can be your go-to strategy when you feel stressed or depressed.
Tips and Suggestions 
Start small: Big and ambitious goals may look fascinating but are usually not doable. Start with small, achievable, and realistic goals. Keep your energy levels in mind while you’re at it. 
Do it every day: Consistency is the key to success. Exercising every day is crucial to achieving your long-term goal of wellness. No matter how little your baby steps are, they will help you move closer to your aspired goal. 
Exercise when your energy levels are high: When we start something new, especially while going through depression, monitoring and planning according to our energy levels is super important. When you are planning to add exercise to your daily routine, it is better to add it during your most active hours. It will help you initiate it and make it a part of your routine. 
Focus on enjoyable activities: You can turn exercise into something fun by connecting it to your favourite activities. You can ride a bicycle, walk with your sister or join a dance class. Take up any activity that can spark your interest in exercise.
Bring people in: Social isolation is a common sign of depression. Exercise with a loved one or a friend to stay on track. You can help one another to achieve your desired goals. 
Find a calm place: Choosing a calm and relaxing spot to exercise can also add to the value of exercise as calm places are helpful in improving the mood. This can help you feel better as your mind and body relaxes together. 
Pat yourself on the back: We are unknowingly hard upon ourselves and depression makes it more difficult to see what we have achieved. As you accomplish daily goals make a habit of encouraging yourself by engaging in a self-care activity, which could be as simple as taking a long shower, eating something you enjoy or engaging in a hobby of your own choice. 
Some Ideas for Basic Exercises
You do not have to invest big to reap benefits. Let’s go through some ideas that can help you get going. 
Use your muscles instead of technology: With the advent of technology, people generally prefer ease over activity. It is better to walk or take a small run if you want to go to a nearby place, such as getting your groceries or meeting a friend. Try to use stairs rather than elevators and find out random chances of moving around more than usual. 
Engage in chores that need physical activity: Sometimes we have an opportunity in front of us that we are unaware of. You do not always need to go to the gym for exercise. Complete tasks at home that require physical movement. Such as mowing the lawn.
Make it a family activity: Depression isolates people. Getting active with the family in a sport or fun activity can be a form of exercise you may prefer to practice. 
Get creative: Find creative ways to stay active. You may stretch while sitting at work. You can enrol in a yoga class or try out boxing.

These are some suggestions that you can try but the world is open to your creativity and innovation. Bringing your attention to creative ways to exercise would not only release your happy chemicals but will help break the vicious cycle of negativity.

Disclaimer: Seek professional help when clinically depressed. This article is not an alternative for clinical helpHH

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“What seems impossible today will become your warm-up tomorrow!”

— Anonymous 

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