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.
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.
- Natural Pain Reliever. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain and stress relief source. These neurotransmitters optimize your spirits in a positive way and make you feel good. Through exercise, it releases your natural source of pain reduction and the production of happiness.
- Boost Happiness. Like endorphins, this neurotransmitter helps produce happiness and wellbeing. Additionally, it has been linked to helping regulate mood, social behavior, appetite, sleep, etc. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to depression. Exercise can improve your mood by increasing your serotonin.
- 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.
- Enhance Your Mood: As mentioned, the increase of serotonin throughout the body leads to a positive mood. Participation in exercise can increase higher rates of remission.
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.