How Exercise Can Play a Role In the Treatment of Depression

Exercise, Depression, Revîv Functional Psychiatry & Functional Wellness, wellness

Nearly one in five Americans are estimated to experience depression at some point in their lives. It’s a $40 billion problem every year in the United States, with costs stemming from both health care and lost productivity. When you’re in the throes of depression, though, these statistics mean little. Getting past the anxiety and despair becomes the priority at a time when motivation is hardest to find.

Depression has long been an over-medicated condition, with varying levels of success. Sometimes, the process of finding an effective medication and appropriate dose can be arduous, without any guarantee that a solution exists.

Though the link isn’t fully understood, exercise is emerging as an all-natural way to counteract the effects of depression. Increasing physical activity seems to create improvements to your body chemistry that in turn counteract the mood downswing that typically accompanies depression.

Potential benefits of exercise

Taking on a regular exercise program seems to ease depression symptoms through a mix of physical and emotional benefits. Increased physical activity boosts the production of endorphins for most people. These natural hormones contribute chemically to a feeling of well-being, counteracting the effects of injury, pain, stress, or in this case depression.

Endorphins act on the same receptors in your brain that respond to opioid medications, but do so in a safe and natural way. While you may get dependent on the positive effects of endorphins, you’ll need to exercise to get it.

The psychological benefits of increased physical activity start with distraction from your previous routine. The sense of accomplishment in taking on an exercise program accompanied by meeting training targets or performance markers can produce a much-needed confidence boost. The act of going to a gym or starting a group activity may also provide social interaction that suppresses depression’s effects.

Physical activity provides similar benefits

While exercise and physical activity are similar, they’re not necessarily the same thing. For instance, working in the garden isn’t an exercise, but it’s certainly physical activity. The good feelings you have working the soil likely stem as much from endorphin production as from emotional gratification.

Since physical activity provides similar protection against depression, you need not take on an exercise program that may overwhelm you. A short workout combined with time in some other form of activity may be easier to start and maintain than a longer workout that may feel daunting.

Staying motivated is key

Motivation is in short supply for most people when they’re depressed. Setting targets that are easy to attain can give you the satisfaction that builds into renewed commitment. The general recommendation for exercise and physical activity to help depression aims for 30 minutes of exercise, three to five times a week. However, that doesn’t have to be your starting point.

Choose activities that you enjoy. Focus on these and you’ll reduce the “chore” factor. Introduce short bursts of exercise, enough to get your heart beating, but not so much that you’re tempted to skip it. Aim for a few days a week and then add another. Gradually add time and frequency. Consistency may be more important in establishing the routine in the early days.

You’ll likely run into roadblocks along the way. Dr. Sidhu and the team at Revîv Functional Psychiatry & Functional Wellness are ready to partner with you to design an exercise and activity program that help you over the hurdles of depression. Call the office directly or use the online booking tool to arrange your consultation today. It’s the first small step toward a more contented life.

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