Exercise: A “Drug” For Depression? (Part 1 of 2)
Recently, in the news there have been some articles about the benefits of exercise in improving symptoms of depression. Take a look at this article from CNN.
Psychologists have known for some time that exercise can help those with mild to moderate depression to feel better. How much this is emphasized in therapy, or how often a client follows through with a recommendation to introduce exercise into his or her daily routine is unknown. I know that in my work with clients when I have brought this up as an important lifestyle change, some clients hear it and seem to internally dismiss it. Other clients, the minority for sure, actually do start an exercise program. The latter group has reported that exercise has been helpful for them. Some of them even joined local sports teams, not only for the exercise, but for the social benefits as well. Exercise can and does pay off if you have depression.
Regular moderate exercise has such profound effects on our bodies overall, whether or not we are depressed. It keeps us healthy, fights of terrible diseases, increases our sense of well being, increases energy, helps improve mood, and may ward off depression in the future.
While it is recommended that people check with their doctor before starting an exercise regimen, most should consider engaging in 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five time per week.
If you do start a new exercise program, be sure to start gradually, with small reasonable goals, rather than jump right into a full blown program. It’s not uncommon for people to set their goals too high initially and find that they just can’t meet them. This can set you up for disappointment and a sense of failure, which is what you don’t need if you are depressed! Starting off slow and then gradually adding more to your routine offers opportunities for success and a nice sense of accomplishment.
I strongly encourage those of you who are depressed and not exercising to consider introducing exercise into your lifestyle. It doesn’t even have to be much. You might start off walking some laps in your house. Then, you might walk a lap or two in your neighborhood. After some time, you might go to a nice park and walk a few laps there. Some of you might join a gym that has a variety of aerobics classes, from beginners to advanced. Others of you may enjoy swimming, jumping rope, jogging, canoeing, biking, or using exercise machines. You might need to try some different things to see what is enjoyable to you and what helps improve your mood. Good luck! You can do it!