Does exercise help depression?
Yes! Recent study suggests that just an hour of moderate exercise a week can significantly reduce the risk of getting depression and relieve symptoms of pre-existing depression. Whatever your age or gender, regular exercise can work wonders for your mood.
How exercise helps mental health
The reason why exercise can help improve mental health is because it reduces your stress levels. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins that make you feel good! If you suffer from mental health issues then exercise is probably the last thing you want to do, but if you can dig deep and find that motivation it really will benefit you.
A study led by Australian researchers saw 33,908 Norwegian adults participate in the largest extensive study of its kind. The participants had their levels of exercise and their symptoms of depression & anxiety monitored over 11 years. As a result, the researchers found that 12% of cases of depression could have prevented. Even one hour a week can make a difference. The study is published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Exercise helping depression - findings
“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression,” said Dr Harvey. “We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity,” he continues.
“These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns. If we can find ways to increase the population’s level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits.”
It doesn’t have to be the gym
The gym is not a necessity when it comes to exercise, especially if your goal is to improve your mood! Exercise involves so many different activities and you don’t have to be fit to start. Even activities like gardening and cleaning the house is enough to get your blood pumping. You just have to get moving and stay moving!
When you’re feeling down then you’ll more than likely want to stay home and that’s okay!
Ease into it
To warm up we highly suggest some light stretching. It’s easy and it won’t exert you, you can even do it while you’re watching TV! Push your stretching techniques further with some yoga. Yoga involves mindfulness which may positively impact your emotional & mental wellbeing. Yoga is a perfect at-home workout to help combat stress and anxiety.
There are countless yoga tutorials online, so don’t feel like you need to take a class or train before you start. Yoga can be simple and very relaxing; it won’t leave you feeling tired or with aches and pains as it’s gentle on the joints.
Step it up
Pick an activity you enjoy doing, perhaps swimming or tennis. Don’t forget to get your steps in! A daily walk is a winner when it comes to health and wellbeing. Whether you listen to your favourite podcast or simply listen to the world around you, walking amongst nature is a guaranteed mood enhancer!
If you can, put a little more effort into it than you usually would. Set reasonable goals for yourself such as 4km or 30 minutes per day. Be prepared for setbacks and busy days that don’t allow you to walk. Just remember to wake up the next day and get back on track!
There are always going to be barriers, mental health challenges aren’t linear, some days are worse than others. Try to remember how good it feels to accomplish something and put your best foot forward!