Can exercise help with symptoms of depression?
Do you suffer from depression, anxiety or experience periods of feeling low?
Are you looking for solutions to these feelings?
Have you tried just about everything? How about exercise?
Over the years I have worked with clients dealing with depression. The post below is an accumulation of sited research and experience.
Depression can show itself in many different varieties. There is clinical depression, post-natal depression, stress induced depression, and depression secondary to PMS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It is always recommended to address your situation and symptoms with a qualified professional such as a psychologist, coach or Mind-Body Expert.
Along your road to realising your underlying causes you can soften the feelings of depression by exercising.
Many studies show that participating in activities can elevate mood and anxiety states in any of the above mentioned groups who are dealing with depression.
"Recent studies reveal that exercise can elevate mood, increase levels of vigour and reduce levels of confusion and fatigue in those with depression."
Continued regular activity can have a preventative effect in the future, therefore this should not be thought of as a short term quick fix.
Human beings are designed to move on a regular basis throughout their life span in order to feel an overall health benefit. Aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling or swimming seem to have received most of the research focus, although, individuals can also include activities such as weight training, group classes, or any other activity which keeps them interested. Group settings seem to have a beneficial effect because of the socialisation aspect. Other groups such as pregnant women can also benefit from a well rounded program.
For some women who are pregnant there can be feelings of depression or low mood throughout pregnancy as well as during the first year after the birth. These feelings come on because of the effect of the hormones and in some, the fear of the changes to their body and the upcoming birth. One study shows great results when a group of women participated in a pram walking group during the post-natal period. They showed improvements in fitness levels and reduced levels of depressive symptoms. During the pregnancy low to moderate intensity exercise is an effective method of enhancing psychological well-being in all three trimesters. The Canadian Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advocates exercise during pregnancy for those with no contraindications. Even those women who have never participated in any form of activity before pregnancy can start a low level exercise program. Check with your doctor to understand if you have any contraindications. It would be prudent to seek out the professional help of a personal trainer, yoga or Pilates instructor who has education and previous experience of working with pregnant clients. Overall, women who are active during and after pregnancy will improve their mood, sense of well-being and body image.
For those with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, studies show that exercise is associated with improved physical activity capacity and specific psychological and cognitive variables. One benefit to working with professionals for CFS sufferers is that they get themselves out of isolating habits which can further their feelings of depression.
Overall life stress can also cause depression or low moods. There will be many variables that may be contributing to your stress and therefore your low moods. Whether you are stressed because of a divorce, work situation, death in the family or any other event in life, there are many ways to improve your mood.
Exercise is one of the best alternatives to add to your list of “mood enhancers”.
Not only will you improve your fitness levels and therefore your overall physical health, there will be the added benefit of improved mental and emotional wellbeing. Depending on what type of activity you choose you can also add a social element to your life that you may have been missing. Just being around other people can have a positive effect for those who are feeling low.
So what activities does one choose if they are wanting these wonderful benefits?
The first guideline is to choose something you like. If you love to swim, go down to your local pool and get started. A group class such as aerobics or yoga may be more your style, or you may prefer an individual based activity such as golf or weight training. If you choose something you like, you are more likely to adhere to continued activity.
"General recommendations suggest thirty minutes of moderate physical exercise daily in order to experience positive fitness and health benefits."
According to research by the American College of Sports Medicine these thirty minutes can be spread over 3 ten minute bouts through the day or can be done all at once. The benefits will be the same whether the time is blocked out to the three sessions or kept as one. The main thing is that you find some activities you enjoy and participate in them on a regular basis.
Sometimes the first step is the most challenging.
Start out by setting a goal of participating in an activity three times per week for 15 to 20 minutes, and work your way up to more days per week when you can. The object is to find a balance and remember that exercising everyday is only a guideline, you will still see benefits if you move three days a week.
Finding a friend or colleague to join you can be a great motivating strategy. Or make an appointment with a personal trainer, yoga or pilates instructor, this way you will feel obligated to meet someone. Be sure to tell this person your background and issues surrounding depression. It will be important for them to fully understand your goals and reasons for working with them.
Start discovering your body and the wonderful connection it has to your mind.
How to get started
1. Focus on activities you enjoy.
2. Start with 15 minutes activity, three times per week.
3. Find activities that are socially stimulating.
4. Set goals.
5. Seek professional guidance for the deeper issues.
or on my website www.CharleneHutsebaut.com