Is it true that exercise might help you overcome depression?
Although a gym membership and a new pair of walking shoes aren’t magic bullets for sadness, there’s no denying that your exercise habits are directly linked to your mood. Many studies have discovered that persons who exercise on a daily basis are less worried and sad than those who do not. Exercise programs have been demonstrated to help heart attack survivors, cancer patients, and others who are dealing with major health issues improve their emotions. You undoubtedly already know that a long walk or a strong tennis game makes you feel more alive and energized than a TV marathon.
Still, don’t expect miracles if you’re trying to walk (or run, or swim) your way out of the blues. According to recent research, exercise has just a minor effect on depression. The Cochrane Collaboration, which assesses the evidence for various therapies, concluded in 2009 that exercise was about as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy for depression. However, when all of the studies were combined, the improvements were not statistically significant, which means they were not powerful enough to rule out chance.
Without a question, exercise may help you become healthier and happier. However, if you’re suffering from depression, it’s only one step forward.
What role does exercise play in the treatment of depression?
Obviously, focusing your mind and body on something other than your troubles will help you feel better — at least temporarily. Exercise appears to improve your brain chemistry as well. Working exercise has been shown in studies to increase serotonin levels, the same brain chemical that antidepressant drugs aim to increase. Getting stronger, healthier, and leaner will help you feel better about yourself on a basic level.
However, new research reveals that the link between exercise and mood isn’t as simple as it appears. Dutch research of over 3,000 pairs of identical twins, for example, showed no evidence that those who exercised more were less depressed or nervous than their siblings. The researchers came to the conclusion that genetics alone could explain why persons who exercise frequently appear to be protected from depression. The same genetic combination that makes someone energetic and ready to exercise also makes them naturally predisposed to be happy.
What is the best sort of exercise?
Everyone believes that any sort of exercise is preferable to none, whether it’s for your mood, your heart, or your waistline. When it comes to fighting depression, though, it’s difficult to identify which sort of exercise is most effective. Structured, tightly monitored classes have had the highest results in research. In such circumstances, simply being in the company of others and receiving encouragement from a professional may be just as beneficial as the exercise itself.
Indeed, research suggests that having a larger social network is one of the reasons why exercise is so beneficial. Researchers discovered that those who engaged in regular physical activity in their spare time were less likely to experience depression symptoms in a Norwegian study of over 40,000 people. They tended to benefit more when they had higher levels of social support and participation, regardless of the intensity of the exercise.
If you want to boost your mood by exercising, you should look for a class that you enjoy. A walking group might be an excellent option; you’ll get all of the social benefits of a class without the registration fees or the requirement for particular equipment or training. It’s crucial to discover an activity that provides you joy and happiness, whether you’re working out in a group or by yourself. Sweat isn’t an antidepressant on its own. You won’t feel any better when you’re done if you don’t appreciate what you’re doing.
How long do you think it’ll take you to feel better?
People suffering from serious depression felt better after a single 30-minute activity, according to small research published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. However, if you want to see long-term results, you’ll need to make a long-term commitment. According to an article published in the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, an exercise program should be tried for at least two months.
When I can hardly get out of bed, how can I force myself to exercise?
If you’re too sad to even consider exercising, consult your doctor first about counseling or medication. Once you’re feeling a little better, you might try to incorporate exercise into your overall healing strategy.