Regular exercise is an important part of anyone’s routine, but it can be particularly helpful for people suffering from depression. Physical activity doesn’t just benefit our bodies – it has a real positive impact on our mental health too. It can help people overcome depression, as well preventing them becoming depressed in the first place.
How Does Exercise Help With Depression?
When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins, which some like to refer to as happy hormones. They trigger a positive feeling in the body, as well as reducing your perception of pain. With regular exercise, this effect helps to ward off feelings of depression. It reduces stress and anxiety, and boosts self-esteem.
Regular exercise also improves your sleeping habits, and good sleeping patterns enhance your mood and general wellbeing. Depression can also lead to oversleeping which, in addition to decreased levels of activity, can have other negative impacts on your health.
Experts say that getting into a good exercise regime gives people with depression the feeling that they’re being proactive about improving their mental health, and this can have a real positive impact.
“Exercise gives them back control of their bodies and this is often the first step to feeling in control of other events,” says Dr Alan Cohen, a GP with a special interest in mental health.
What Type of Exercise Is Best?
Any type of exercise is useful for people with depression. Jogging, cycling and swimming are great for those who like to exercise alone. Yoga is a good option if you’d prefer a more relaxing activity. Remember, exercise doesn’t always have to be strenuous. Mild activities such as walking, gardening or even housework are helpful too.
Social support is important for those dealing with depression, so engaging in more social forms of exercise may be particularly beneficial. Try engaging in competitive sports, such as tennis and badminton. Joining an organised exercise group or class is a nice way to get the physical activity you need while meeting new people and forming positive relationships.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
Exercise guidelines are the same for everyone. Generally adults should be getting at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week. This should include some moderate physical activity which makes you break into a sweat, and some strength exercises to maintain the strength of major muscles.
It’s best to spread out your exercise over the course of the week, rather than doing nothing most days and all your exercise in a single day.
How Should You Get Started?
If you haven’t exercised for a while, you should introduce it to your routine gradually. You can start by taking short walks, which you may later want to build up into longer walks or runs.
Find an activity you’ll be able to do regularly, which you won’t struggle to fit into your weekly routine. Plan when you’ll exercise and put it in your calendar or diary if you think you’ll need reminding. You may want to vary your exercises to prevent yourself becoming bored with an overly repetitive routine.
If you find it difficult to motivate yourself to exercise, you might find it helpful to join an exercise group or take part in a team sport. The encouragement of others can really help you stick with an activity.
Regular exercise offers a multitude of benefits. It helps you maintain a healthy weight, prevents some serious health conditions and has a positive impact on mental health.
Everyone can benefit from a good exercise regime and if you’re suffering from depression, you have even more to gain from regular physical activity.