By Felicia K. Wong
We’ve all heard it before - “Exercise is good for you”. As holiday eating can lead to unwanted pounds, “Getting more exercise” will be a common New Year’s resolution. However, did you know that exercise has the potential to do wonders for your mental health?
Studies have found that regular exercise can be just as important as medication and therapy for the treatment of mild to moderate depression.
Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, natural chemicals that can reduce your perception of pain. Endorphins can trigger positive feelings and improve your mood quickly.
Regular exercise has been shown to relieve the symptoms of depression by:
- reducing stress
- increasing your energy level
- improving your sleep
- improving your physical fitness, which can improve your self esteem
- providing a distraction from anxiety and feelings of depression
- increasing your sense of mastery and control over your life
It can be difficult to motivate yourself to start moving when you’re feeling down. The goal is to exercise at least 20-30 minutes, three times a week to reap the maximum benefits of exercise for depression. But even a few minutes a day can help boost your mood! Here are some tips to help you get started:
Keep it simple! Set simple and realistic goals. You can start by getting outside and walking around the block. Increase the duration of exercise a little bit each day.
Choose an activity that you enjoy. Walking, biking, yoga – find something that appeals to you.
Keep it interesting. Vary the exercise so you don’t get bored.
Keep it cheap. Unless you plan to use them regularly, avoid buying a health club memberships or expensive equipment. Go outside, get active and enjoy the fresh air!
Make it social. Find friends to exercise with - talking to people will keep it fun and help you stay motivated.
Stick with it! If you exercise regularly, it will become part of your lifestyle and help reduce your depression.
Seeing your doctor is an important step in dealing with depression, and you should discuss treatment options including medication and therapy. However, exercise can be an important additional tool that can provide you with immediate and long-term relief from depression.