Depression is a behavioral health condition that causes you to lose interest in everyday activities and experience problems with sleep, concentration, self-worth, energy, and eating. Periods of depression usually last a minimum of two weeks. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 7.1% of American adults dealt with major depression at least once in 2017. Treatment typically involves therapy and/or medication.
However, some people do not want to or cannot take medication. An alternative that some doctors are recommending is exercise.
How Does Exercise Help Depression?
Physical activity can help prevent depressive episodes by addressing the areas where symptoms usually show up. It releases endorphins, or “feel good” hormones, that can bring feelings of happiness and optimism. It also raises the quality of your sleep, and a well-rested mind is more likely to function optimally. Routine exercise can even regulate your appetite so that you neither eat too little nor too much.
Exercise also improves your overall physical health, which can get you off certain medications or manage illnesses that contribute to depression. When you are being active and seeing progress in your abilities, your self-esteem increases as well. In turn, as you think better about yourself, you will treat yourself with more compassion.
Can Exercise Treat Already Existing Depression?
In addition to preventing depression, working out helps alleviates symptoms as they arise. For example, when you feel a decline in energy, going for a brisk walk around the block can boost both your energy levels and your mood to help you get through the rest of your day.
A link not only exists between exercise and depression but also between exercise and anxiety. Being active uses up nervous energy so that you feel less anxious. Having a routine exercise program provides structure and purpose that can also manage depression and anxiety.
How Much Exercise Is Enough?
As with anything that benefits your health, you need to do it regularly in order to gain the effects of exercise on depression. The ideal frequency is 30 minutes a day for three to five days a week. However, even 10 to 15 minutes can make a difference. The more vigorous the workout, the less time it will take to experience results.
What if you do not like to exercise? Using machines at the gym, lifting weights, and going for a run are not your only choices. Others that may better suit your interest and abilities include
- Martial arts
Simply moving more is beneficial, as general physical activity and depression are also related. Add light activities to your lifestyle, such as cleaning, gardening, and climbing stairs.
Help and Hope Are Within Reach
Exercise greatly decreases depression, but it does not cure it. You may still need to rely on other treatment methods for maximum results. There is no shame in taking care of your mental health. On the contrary, it is a smart thing to do. You can find the help and hope you need right here at Pyramid Family Behavioral Healthcare. Find out if our services, from intensive outpatient programs to counseling, are right for you.