In the United States, one in ten adults struggle with depression. While antidepressant medications are a common go-to treatment, they aren’t the only solution. Exercise has been shown to effectively treat depression. While exercise alone cannot treat severe depression, it can certainly be added to the therapeutic treatment routine.
How Exercise Helps
There is a cascade of biological events started when you begin exercising. Of course, there are the health benefits of lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and protecting against diabetes and heart disease. High-intensity workouts cause the brain to release endorphins, our body’s feel-good chemicals. However, the greatest value is low impact exercise continued over time. This type of sustained exercise stimulates the release of neurotrophic, or growth factor, proteins. These proteins result in the growth of nerve cells that make new connections. As these connections are made, your brain function improves, and you feel better.
Strength training not only helps you get physically stronger, but it can help fight depression. In addition to the scientific benefits listed above, there is a sense of accomplishment at the completion of your strength training workout. After getting through your routine, you feel that you can conquer anything. As your endurance level increases, you have more energy to tackle the challenges you face in your everyday life. In addition to all of that, there is the pride you feel for adhering to your fitness program.
Yoga has been shown to have a delightful antidepressant effect. It not only improves your flexibility, but it also incorporates mindfulness. Mindfulness stops repetitive destructive thoughts. Yoga also increases strength, connects you to your breath, improves your balance and helps you learn meditation.
In the same vein as yoga, tai chi consists of slow, gentle movements that can help combat depression. Practicing tai chi in a group setting can also help fight feelings of social isolation.
Walking is one of the most versatile exercises because it is appropriate for almost everybody. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes, and you’re ready to go. Depression has a tendency to make you sedentary. Start walking slowly and gradually increase your distance and your time.
Go Outside and Play
Being outdoors is a great way to boost mood and fight depression. Take up gardening. Go outside and play with your kids. Wash your car. Getting outside and getting a healthy dose of sunlight boosts your serotonin levels, which raises your spirits. Just moving your body, whether you’re inside or outside, is exercise, so pick what you enjoy and start moving.