According to the American Psychological Association, the link between exercise and depression is well-documented. Research shows that people who are more active are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety. There can be an improvement in mood and behavior after just a few minutes of physical activity. Exercise is an important way to combat the symptoms and effects of depression. If you are not already using exercise to improve your mental health, you need to get started. Exercise and depression have a relationship that you can use to your advantage. It’s a good way to supplement any other treatment you’re receiving, and you’ll also enjoy the benefits of better overall health.
Exercise and Depression: How to Start
It’s easy to allow excuses to get in your way. Maybe you’ve never exercised before, or you don’t think of yourself as particularly active or in great shape. Perhaps you are overweight or even obese. That’s okay – you can start slowly. When it comes to exercise and depression, you don’t have to run 10 miles a day or lift twice your body weight. All you have to do is make an effort and take small steps.
Start by going for a 20 minute walk three or four days a week. You can walk around your neighborhood or go to the park or even walk through the mall if you prefer an indoor setting. Use a treadmill or a track at a local school. There’s no need to make it a race or focus on your pace. Just start walking. As you become more comfortable with this type of exercise, you can increase the time to 30 minutes and then start walking five days a week.
A recent Australian study concerning exercise and depression showed that women who walked regularly felt better and found they were less limited by the symptoms of their depression. There were physical benefits noted as well, but the exercise and depression link was even stronger; the psychological benefits were even deeper than the physical ones.
Exercise and Depression: What Works
The regular walking routine is an excellent place to start. It works for men, women, even children and people who have physical limitations. There are other fitness routines you can choose to take on your plans for exercise and depression. For example, many people find relief from their depression by swimming. When you swim in a pool, you’re getting all the aerobic benefits that release endorphins and improve mood. There are additional physiological changes specific to swimming that can also help. To swim, you need to alternate between stretching and resting your muscles. It also requires you to breathe in a consistent pattern, which can be soothing to your brain and productive in treating your depression naturally.
If you’ve never done any real swimming before, start slow – just like you would with the walking. Get into a pool and swim from one end to the other, slowly. Try this three times a week. Once that one lap becomes manageable, increase your pace or try to do two laps. You may find that this exercise and depression relationship compels you to get into the pool every day. The repetitive actions involved in swimming laps is good for your mental health, and it’s also a low impact exercise, so you don’t have to worry about damaging your muscles and joints.
Exercise and Depression: Yoga
Yoga might seem impossible for people who have never done it before, but it’s easy to get started with just a few simple poses. When you think about exercise and depression, you have to remember that yoga exercises both your mind and your body, making it an excellent way to manage depression, stress and anxiety.
Try the Bound Angel Pose, which requires you to sit on the floor and bend your knees, opening your hips and bringing your feet together in front of you. You can also try the Standing Forward Bend, in which you stand with your legs straight and then lower your upper body until your hands reach the floor. If you cannot make it all the way to the floor, go as far as you can. Try these simple poses two or three times a week, or even when you’re feeling particularly depressed. The stretching and the breathing can help you calm your mind and balance yourself.
When it comes to exercise and depression, nearly everyone agrees that there is a relationship. Regular physical activity can distract your overworked brain and help your body learn to breathe, relax and find some sort of peace. If you’re concerned that you’re not a good candidate for exercise – don’t worry. You can start simply and slowly, with walking or swimming, and you’ll begin to feel the positive effects that exercise can have on your depression.