Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


How to Stay Active When Suffering from Depression

Depression affects people in all walks of life. Some people are able to overcome it, others find it debilitating. Fortunately, exerciseone of the most effective treatments for depression is also one of the most accessible: exercise.

Depression Rates

According to the National Institutes of Mental Health, clinical depression is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44, affecting approximately 14.8 million adults. Though it can affect both genders, it is more common in women.

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that is dictated by the season. Some people with SAD, for example, may feel sad in the winter only to feel normal come spring. As reported by CNN, between 4 and 6 percent of the US population experiences SAD, and between 10 and 20 percent may experience a lesser form of it.

How Exercise Impacts Depression

Whether or not a person is depressed, exercise can have a major impact on mood. In fact, the relation between exercise and emotion is one that has been studied for decades. A 1981 study found that regular exercise can improve mood in people with moderate depression and can play a supporting role in treating people with severe depression. Another study found that exercise can be a suitable replacement for those who do not wish to take antidepressants. A study from 2005 found that walking at a quick pace for 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a large impact on mild and moderate depressive symptoms.

The reason exercise has such an influence on mood is that exercise releases endorphins – natural chemicals that make a person feel happy. Exercise may also have the ability to stimulate norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that directly affects a person’s mood. Of course, exercise also helps keep weight down, boosts self-esteem, and makes people feel generally healthier. All of this can help fight depression.

Making Exercise a Priority

Getting motivated enough to exercise can be difficult for anyone, but depression exacerbates this difficulty. However, there are some tricks that may help make exercise feel a little less like work. These include:

Faking it Till You Make It: Sometimes, you just have to go through the motions until the motions become second nature to you. It might be helpful to do this with exercise: think of exercise as something that you just do every day, like showering or brushing your teeth.

Switching it Up: Believe it or not, exercise can be enjoyable. Especially when people do a variety of exercises and when they exercise at a moderate pace. While people who are professional athletes or those training for a marathon need to push themselves to the extreme, the average person does not need to engage in a stringent training routine. Instead, exercise at a pace that is comfortable enough to do every day.

Getting a Workout Buddy: A workout buddy may help make working out more enjoyable. Plus, those who exercise with a partner may be more likely to stick with the workout program.

Telling Others About Your Plans: Letting others know about your plans can also help you adhere to them. And if others know of your exercise goals, they will be more likely to offer encouragement.

About the Author

Samantha Greenbaum is an active mother-of-two who knows the importance of staying one step ahead of poor moods. If you’re interested in making healthy life changes, Samantha recommends you click here.

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Recovering The Self is a forum for people to tell their stories. Individual contributors accept complete responsibility for the veracity, accuracy, and non-infringement of their reporting.
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