How exercise can help recovery from depression

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Anyone who has suffered from depression will have been told that exercise could help them to feel better. Of course, as you will know if you have suffered from serious clinical depression, it isn’t always that easy to fit exercise into your life – if you don’t care whether you live or die, then your health is the last thing on your mind. In this case, you will need a medical or psychological intervention of some kind and should most definitely see a doctor. However, although exericse is not a cure for depression, the general feeling of well-being after exercise can assist in the recovery process. Here are some ways that exercise can help with recovery from depression.

It’s a neurotransmitter thing

Much research has been carried out into the link between exercise and depression, yet it still isn’t fully understood. However, it is thought that it could improve the level of neurotransmitters in the brain that are in control of mood, as well as increase the level of endorphins (produced by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus) in the body. Whatever the reason, there seems little doubt that exercise can improve feelings of well-being.

Stress-busting and relaxing

Depression can leave a person with a great deal of anger, which has often been bottled up for some time. This anger has to be worked out at some point and, if you want to avoid taking it out on your loved ones, exercise is a great way to release it. Reasonably hard exercise can be stress-busting, and if followed by a stretching session, can be incredibly relaxing. It might be worth trying yoga as a relaxation technique.

It provides you with a hobby

Recovering from depression will not be as easy as finding a new hobby to distract oneself; but then again, it can certainly help in the process. Spending half an hour to an hour per day exercising could give you the opportunity to get out of the house and interact with other people, even if it is just a smile as you jog by. It could simply give you something else to think about and aim for – you could, for example, decide that in the future you want to run a 5km race. Just don’t set your goals too high.

Improves self-confidence

Not only does exercise make us feel good, it can also, with time, make us look good. This in turn should make the sufferer feel much more confident and therefore more willing to have a social life. Depression tends to make a sufferer less active than usual, thus promoting weight gain, and weight gain can be a side effect of medication for depression. Cutting down on this weight gain is bound to bring about a feeling of well-being.

Improves health

Starting an exercise regime often goes hand in hand with an improvement in diet. Making small changes like drinking more water and eating more fruit and vegetables, which is bound to have a positive effect on both mind and body. Some people with alcohol problems find that, once they feel better as a result of exercise, they are less likely to want to abuse alcohol. Whatever happens, any small change in exercise and diet is likely to make the path to recovery an easier one.

As with any exercise regime, you should check with your doctor first, particularly if you are on medication and haven’t exercised for a long time. The chances are that he or she will wholeheartedly recommend that you go ahead, but it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043

https://www.nhs.uk/Pathways/depression/Pages/Living.aspx

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