Last Updated on January 10, 2019 by Michael Brockbank
Depression affects millions of people across the United States to varying degrees. For most of us, it’s simply a part of life we have to live with. Or do we? The truth is putting in effort for good fitness helps depression and anxiety.
And I’m not simply talking about body building or creating bulging biceps. Proper fitness also includes the foods you put into your body.
But let me start by saying that if you’re suffering from severe depression, please seek professional assistance. It can turn into far worse of a problem the longer you wait.
With that being said, let’s take a closer look into how fitness helps depression. In reality, adding fitness to your daily routine is often as effective as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. [note]NCBI – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3674785/[/note]
Fitness Helps Depression by Releasing Hormones
First, being physically active prompts the body to release endorphins. This chemical is the body’s natural defense against the perception of pain. It’s an analgesic and often works as a sedative. [note]Medical News Today – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320839.php[/note]
You’ve probably heard the term, “runner’s high.” This is when runners get a euphoric sensation from the activity and generally feel extremely good. This is caused from the sheer amount of endorphin coursing through the body.
Depending on the exercise and the individual, the hormones released are just as effective as many prescription drugs for depression. It’s one of the reasons why many therapists recommend an active exercise routine.
A Proper Diet Improves Mental Stability
What you eat affects your mind just as much as it does your body. Our brains need a specific level of nutrition to operate properly. Depriving yourself of that nutrition leads to various cognitive complications.
For instance, a lack of nutrients can affect fine-motor control, memory, processing input and even your mood. Think about it; since your brain controls the way you feel and think, keeping it healthy changes your outlook.
In fact, mood swings are sometimes related to having food allergies. Some people will experience anger and are easily frustrated if they don’t have enough protein in the morning. Others can feel distressed simply because of how the body reacts to peanuts. [note]Everyday Health – https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/therese-borchard-sanity-break/could-depression-be-an-allergic-reaction/[/note]
If you’re curious as to whether a food allergy might be your problem, use the free app MyFitnessPal to track your eating habits. Change your diet a bit over the span of a few days or weeks and see if something you’re eating is vastly changing your mood.
7 Activities to Help Treat Depression
In reality, any form of exercise can impact depression in some form. As long as you keep yourself active, you can benefit. Of course everyone is different, though. You might require a greater degree of exercise than someone else.
In any case, here are seven activities that I find helpful for dealing with depression.
1. Walking, Jogging or Running
One of the easiest ways to start combating depression today is to walk, jog or run. Just remember the more intense your activity, the more endorphins you’ll release.
This means that a run is more productive than a walk in terms of improving your mood. However, I find that a nice leisurely stroll around the neighborhood is quite relaxing.
Every one is different, and you might have just as good of an experience walking as others do running a 7-minute mile.
2. Lifting Weights
Lifting weights is good for several reasons; a) it helps strengthen the body, b) is an activity to help lose weight, and c) is something you can control.
You don’t have to push yourself into looking like the Hulk, but defining your muscles and adding strength has a lot of real-world uses.
For one thing, it’s something you have control over…in a world where many things seem uncontrollable. You can feel pride in your accomplishments, and no one can stop you from developing as much as you want.
3. Practice Yoga
Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that improves overall mood and relaxation. In reality, yoga therapy can lead to a variety of benefits both physical and mental. [note]Healthline – https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/yoga-therapy#how-it-works[/note]
And because it’s extremely popular today, it’s easy to become a yogi with certain practices and beliefs that fit perfectly with your personality. Personally, I belong to a group of gamer yogis.
Yoga is more than just exercise, toning and physical balance. It promotes balance within, which directly affects perceptions of yourself, stress and depression.
4. Be Active Outside
In many ways, humans are as photogenic as plants. Some studies show how humans release more serotonin during sunny days. This chemical is a contributor to how we feel. Which is why a lot of people feel down or depressed on overcast and rainy days. [note]WebMD – https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/news/20021205/unraveling-suns-role-in-depression[/note]
Find activities you can do outside that puts you in direct path of sunlight. Of course you’ll want to wear sunscreen, otherwise you’ll have a completely different problem with burns and skin cancer.
Even if it’s something simple such as working in the garden, you can elevate your mood by being outdoors. In fact, gardening might be a great option because it’s something you can control as well.
5. Take Up Golf
Before you roll your eyes, golf has great potential for dealing with depression. For one thing, you’re outside. Secondly, you can get quite a bit of exercise playing the game, especially if you don’t get a cart.
Thirdly, it can often promote a peaceful and serene mindset. This is one of the biggest reasons why I love to golf. At the courses I play, I am surrounded by nature on a quiet landscape while getting plenty of fresh air.
The downside is that golf is often an expensive hobby to get into. However, I started playing when I had very little money. I found it relaxing just to hit the driving range two or three times a week.
Swimming is perhaps one of the best exercises you can ever do. It’s zero-impact, which means it’s gentle on the joints. You also work out the majority of the muscle groups in your body.
You don’t necessarily have to sweat to still get the endorphins going. In this case, it’s all about raising the heart rate while enjoying yourself. Because let’s face it, most people love to swim because it’s fun.
Swimming is a fine example of how fitness helps depression. And it’s a great activity to tone muscle mass and burn calories for weight loss.
It’s an all-around win!
7. Do a Bit of Housework
Housework is another one of my favorite activities. Not only can it get the heart rate up, but it also has an impact on how you feel about your surroundings.
Again, it’s something you have control over.
I don’t know about you, but I know I feel more at peace in a clean house. And this is in addition to getting the endorphins pumping through rigorous cleaning.
Be Active, Be Happy
I can say that my mood has definitely shifted over the past couple years. While I still often find myself a bit tired, I am far less depressed than I used to be. I’m also far more active than I was in the past.
Find an activity that elevates your heart rate and see if fitness helps depression for you. You may find it as a free alternative to expensive medications.[template id=”3591″]