Using Physical Activity and Exercise to Help with Depression

high-angle shot of a blue cup of cappuccino with a sad face drawn with cocoa powder on its milk foam, on a blue rustic table with a blank space on the right

There will always be times in our life when we feel like we take two steps forward only to get knocked 10 steps back. Sometimes we feel like we just can’t catch a break, and while there are some people who can bounce back like it was nothing, there are others who get lost in time and find themselves facing depression.

So, what is depression?

Depression is a serious condition that is considered a chronic disease. It is often hard to describe, mainly because it is a different experience for everyone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are five forms of depression:

    • Persistent:  depression that lasts up to two years
    • Postpartum: also called “baby blues,” and occur after giving birth
    • Psychotic: having disturbed false-fixed beliefs of hallucinations
    • Seasonal Affective Disorder: more during the winter months when there is less sunlight
  • Bipolar Disorder: this differs from depression, but people face different episodes of extremely low mood disorders

Depression is not something that can just be fixed by saying, “Oh, cheer up!” Depression can leave some of us feeling sad, with low self-esteem, replaying negative thoughts, facing PTSD, isolated, under- or over-eating, and fatigued.

Treating Depression

Although some treatments include medication or talking with a therapist, engaging in exercise/physical activity can play a vital role in your health and depression. Exercise/physical activity can act as an antidepressant without any negative side effects.

How Physical Activity and Exercise can help with Depression

Here is some explanation on how exercise/physical activity can repress/treat depression and work as an antidepressant medication:

  • Enhance Brain Function: Neurotransmitters, or chemical messengers, release signals to stimulate your brain. The following list includes brief explanations of how low-intensity exercises/physical activity can affect common neurotransmitters that antidepressant medications target.
  • Improve Emotional Response. The hippocampus organ in the brain is responsible for processing long-term memory and emotional response. Through exercise, it helps support nerve cell growth, nerve connections, and relief of depression.
  • Improve Mental Health: Exercise/physical activity helps our mental focus and target specific issues. Click here to view 10 additional ways to improve your mental health.
  • Boost Confidence: Exercise/physical activity helps maintain or lose body weight and sweat out toxins from the body. As your body progresses to your standards of health and fitness, then you become self-assured of your accomplishments.
  • Becomes A Helpful Distraction: As you find yourself working out, timing yourself, and wiping off sweat, you have no room for negative thoughts. During exercise you find yourself thinking about your exercise routines and improving your health.

How Much Physical Activity/Exercise is Needed?

On average, a minimum of 30 minutes a day for five days a week (Speak with your physician and/or fitness professional to set the perfect plan for you).

  • Physical activity/exercise can include low-intensity aerobic exercises, walking, jogging, running, or even dancing.

Overall, exercise/physical activity has been cited as a positive replacement/repression tool for depression. There are multiple studies that show exercise targeting the same receptors as antidepressants and improving our mental health.

Health Fitness Revolution strongly recommends readers who are clinically diagnosed with depression to speak with their healthcare provider before any self-drastic changes. Please do not self-diagnose, and seek help or diagnosis from a professional.

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