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Exercise vs Depression

January 7, 2017

Since human beings consist of both a body and a mind, united to create a whole person, physical and mental health are inextricably linked. Depression doesn’t just affect your mind, it has physical effects too. A person with depression can feel drained of energy, movement can be difficult (it feels like lead weights are strapped to your limbs), and in severe cases, it can cause physical pain. This can create a vicious circle whereby a depressed person finds it hard to feel motivated to exercise, while lack of exercise can exacerbate depression. Study after study has shown the link between a sedentary lifestyle and feeling depressed. But there are a few steps you can take to help break the cycle.

 

  • Set achievable goals: When you are depressed, reaching your exercise goals can seem a daunting task. It can help to break them down into smaller chunks. For example, instead of doing 20 reps on a piece of equipment, do 10. Then, if that goes well, do another 10.

  • Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved, instead of beating yourself up over what you haven’t: If you can only manage 10 reps in the above scenario, it’s not the end of the world. The fact that you managed to get out of bed is an achievement. You are not trying to win Olympic gold, and you don’t have to impress anyone. You are doing something good for you.

  • Try something that you used to enjoy: One of the symptoms of depression is that things you used to enjoy can seem like a chore. Try them anyway. You never know, you might remember what you used to love about it in the first place.

  • Try something new: Alternatively, this can be a perfect opportunity to experiment with new activities. You may discover your next great passion!

  • Get outdoors: Whilst working out in the gym is great, getting close to nature also has proven mental health benefits. Sunshine is a great mood booster, but even in cold and/or rainy weather, fresh air and green space can help to lift your spirits.

  • Keep moving, keep moving, keep moving: These are words you will often hear me say during our transformation sessions, and keeping up the pace can help you to keep your mind off negative thoughts and feelings.

  • Don’t go it alone: Get support, whether it’s from your friendly personal trainer, from medical professionals or from friends and relatives. Perhaps keep a mood journal to track your progress, and help you figure out what works and what doesn’t.

 

Exercise has great benefits, both physical and mental. It boosts endorphins, decreases stress hormones and in some cases, reduces inflammation, a potential cause of depression. Our primitive ancestors evolved the “fight or flight” reaction in our hunter-gatherer days. Now that we no longer have to hunt mammoths or run away from sabre-toothed tigers, we mostly suppress these urges, which can mess up our brain chemistry. Physical exercise helps to mimic the conditions under which these reactions evolved, restoring our brains (and bodies) to their natural equilibrium.

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