We know exercise can improve mental health, but some exercises can be more effective than others.
When you’ve got depression, getting out of bed can feel hard enough. But conversely, exercise is actually an incredibly useful tool to help combat some of the symptoms.
When you exercise you release ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins which help reduce negative feelings and improve your mood.
As well as that, exercise can help to break up racing thoughts that often compound depression. As the body tires so does the mind, leaving you calmer and better able to think clearly. Simply taking time out to exercise can also give people the space to think things over and help clear the mind.
But the term ‘exercise’ is a pretty sweeping one, so which kinds of physical activity are going to be most effective in helping you to beat depression?
A common misconception is that exercise has to be ‘hard’ to be effective.
But sometimes, quite the opposite is true. Hard exercise can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often present in high levels in people who suffer with depression. Sometimes the recommendation can be more passive forms of exercise.
A walk in the great outdoors can be a fantastic way to combat depression.
We’ve all heard the expression of going outside to ‘clear your head’, but it’s so true. Ultimately, if you have a clearer mind, you’re more likely to achieve greater changes to your physical and mental health.
Scientific research suggests outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression.
The colours, sounds and smells we find outdoors stimulate our senses, and being in regular social contact with people can help boost your self-esteem and reduce loneliness.
In the midst of a depressive episode, it can be easy to want to shut yourself away, becoming isolated from the company of others. But this isn’t advisable, and exercising in a group might be a good way to avoid it.
As well as the camaraderie, having the opportunity to speak to people and be social as you work out can deliver huge benefits.
A group activity might be best for you if you value your boost of a strong social element. You’re much more likely to keep doing it if it’s fun and you enjoy the company of those around you.
Running is the kind of exercise that enables you to notice when your fitness levels progress, which is the kind of reward that will help someone with depression.
Running is a hugely rewarding exercise where you can easily track progress and improvement.
It’s important to find a type of activity that you love and stick to it.
Running can provide a great escape from your everyday routine and allows you to focus, strive and achieve a personal goal or objective. While the correct “dose” of depression-fighting exercise is up for debate, some experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week.
A recent review of numerous scientific studies found no association between the intensity level of the exercise and its emotional benefit -so simply moving more is a great start.
Running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, requiring just a pair of trainers and not much else.
Build Your Muscles
Boost your strength, boost your happiness? A recent study of 45 stroke survivors with depression found that a 10-week strength training program helped reduced symptoms of depression (among numerous other benefits).
An great way to increase your strength, and therefore, your happiness, is to follow a strength programme. You can find out more here from Sports Glory.
Strength training is about mastery and control. It requires full attention and concentration. More importantly, people can see the results, the outline of the muscles forming, from dedication and training.
Just be sure to start slowly and use the assistance of a personal trainer if needed.
Some really great information on strength training can be found in this article – https://countfit.com/how-to-gain-strength-and-become-fit/ .
Yoga and Mindfulness
In a study of 65 women with depression and anxiety, the 34 women who took a yoga class twice a week for two months showed a significant decrease in depression and anxiety symptoms, compared to the 31 women who were not in the class.
Eastern traditions such as yoga have a wonderful antidepressant effect in that they improve flexibility; involve mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts; increase strength; make you aware of your breathing; improve balance; and contain a meditative component.
Start with a yoga class in your area so you can be sure that you’re doing the movements and poses properly.
Get in touch to let us know what works for you!