Sometimes a workout is all the therapy that you need.
Exercise and depression
Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication but without the side-effects for sure! Running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also suggests that maintaining an exercise schedule can even prevent you from relapsing.
Exercise is a super powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being! It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel really good. Finally, exercise can also serve as a good distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed on depression!
Exercise and anxiety
Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment as well! It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins. Anything that gets you moving can help, but you will get a bigger benefit if you pay attention instead of just zoning out.
Try to notice the sensation of your feet hitting the ground, for example, or the hardcore rhythm of your breathing, or the innate feeling of the wind on your skin. By adding this particular mindfulness element by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise you will not only improve your physical condition way faster, but you may also be able to interrupt the flow of constant worries running through your head!
Exercise and stress
Ever noticed how your body feels when you are under stress? Your muscles may be tense, especially in your face, neck, and shoulders, leaving you with back or neck pain, or even painful headaches. You may feel a heavy tightness in your chest, a pounding pulse, or sometimes muscle cramps. You may also go one to experience problems such as insomnia, heartburn, stomach ache, diarrhea, or frequent urination! The worry and discomfort of all these physical symptoms can in turn lead towards even more stress, creating a very vicious cycle between your mind and body.
Exercising is an effective way to break this vicious cycle! As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body! Since the body and the mind are so closely linked, when your body feels better so will automatically your mind.
Exercise and ADHD
Exercising regularly is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the symptoms of ADHD and in turn improve concentration, motivation, memory, and more so mood! Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels. All of which tend to affect focus and attention. In this way, exercise works in much the same way as ADHD medications
Exercise and PTSD or Trauma
Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or Trauma. Instead of allowing your mind to wander, pay close attention to the physical sensations in your joints plus muscles, even in your insides as your body moves. Exercises that involve cross movement plus engage both the arms and legs such as walking (especially in sand), running, swimming, weight training, or dancing are some of your best choices!
Outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, mountain biking, rock climbing, white water rafting, and skiing (downhill and cross-country) have also been shown to reduce the symptoms of PTSD or Trauma.
Exercise is a celebration of what your body can do. Not a punishment for what you ate.
Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise
Entails Sharper memory and thinking.
The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.
You imbibe Higher self-esteem.
Regular physical activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes a habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You will feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you will feel a sense of achievement!
Engage in Better sleep.
Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns. If you prefer to exercise at night, relaxing exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching can even help promote sleep.
More energy gained.
Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more power to get-up-and-go. Start off with just a few minutes of exercise per day, and increase your workout as you feel far more energized.
Way to go Stronger resilience.
When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a very healthy way, instead of resorting to addictions such as alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviours that ultimately only make your symptoms go worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress!
Reaping the several mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think
Wondering just how much activity will give you a mental health boost? It is probably not as much as you think. You do not need to devote hours out of your busy day to train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile! You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30-minutes of moderate exercise say five times a week. Two 15-minute or even three 10-minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.
To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise.
Here are 7 great exercises to help ease depression symptoms:
Set Off That Runner’s High
When it comes to workouts that fight depression, aerobic and cardio exercises have the edge. Till date, the strongest evidence seems to support aerobic exercise. While the correct “dose” of depression-fighting exercise is up for debate, some experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week! There is no association between the intensity level of the exercise and its emotional benefit so simply moving more is definitely a great start.
Ever heard of a runner’s high? The most tangible example of exercise stimulating certain brain chemicals is the runner’s high that many athletes report experiencing once crossing a certain threshold of exertion while running. That particular euphoria is due to the release of endorphins in the brain in response to the sustained physical activity.
Endorphins are our body’s natural morphine and, when released by special glands in our brains, they can produce a sense of well-being or joy and also decrease pain levels to a certain extent.
Building Up Your Muscles
Boost your strength is to boost your happiness? Strength Training has helped reduce symptoms of depression (among numerous other benefits).
Strength training is all about mastery and control. It requires full attention and even concentration. More importantly, people can see the varied results, the very outline of the muscles forming, from the dedication and training. Just be quite sure to start slowly and use the assistance of a personal trainer, if needed.
Eastern traditions such as yoga have a wonderful anti-depressant effect in that they improve flexibility; involve superb mindfulness, which breaks up repetitive negative thoughts; increases strength; make you well aware of your breathing; improves balance; and contain a highly meditative component.
Try Tai Chi
Like yoga, the slow, gentle movements of Tai Chi are another Eastern tradition that might help you break free from depression or a major depressive disorder. The social aspect of Tai Chi, which is done in group settings, also plays a role in its effectiveness.
Get Your Walk Mode On
Simply putting one foot in front of the other may be the trick to feeling way better because walking is an aerobic exercise that is best suited for almost everyone! All it takes is a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, and you are ready to go.
Practical wisdom suggests that doing something is better than doing nothing in terms of physical activity. If depression has made you quite sedentary, start off slowly and gradually increase time and then distance.
Go Play Outdoors
If you enjoy being outdoors, even simple activities such as gardening, throwing a ball around with your kids, or washing your car may do you some major good! That is because a healthy dose of sunlight has been shown to boost mood, this is likely due to the fact that sunshine stimulates our serotonin levels (drops in serotonin during the darker and colder months have been linked to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD).
Just moving your body inside or out is exercise! Choose whatever works for you, depending on your functioning level, energy, and preferences. Bounce!
Exercise not only changes your body, it changes your mind, your attitude and your mood.
About the Author:
Trishna Patnaik, a BSc (in Life Sciences) and MBA (in Marketing) by qualification but an artist by choice. A self-taught artist based in Mumbai, Trishna has been practising art for over 14 years. After she had a professional stint in various reputed corporates, she realised that she wanted to do something more meaningful. She found her true calling in her passion that is painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter pursuing her passion to create and explore to the fullest. She says, “It’s a road less travelled but a journey that I look forward to everyday.” Trishna also conducts painting workshops across Mumbai and other metropolitan cities of India.
Trishna is an art therapist and healer. She works with clients on a one on one basis in Mumbai.
Trishna fancies the art of creative writing and is dappling her hands in that too, to soak in the experience and have an engagement with readers, wanderers and thinkers.