Anti-Depression Through Fitness
One of the most common ways to deal with depression is through treatment with prescription anti-depressants, but there are other solutions. For many people, adding fitness into their lives can act as an anti-depressant and show significant improvement with depression and low self-esteem.
Fitness and Brain Chemistry
You already know that eating right and exercising improves your health and how your body functions. However, did you know these things also help with brain health and elevate your mood?
Regular exercise causes the levels of certain neurotransmitters in your brain to increase. Serotonin and norepinephrine are two of the most impacted neurotransmitters and both increase feelings of wellbeing and happiness. They are also the neurotransmitters that most anti-depressants target in order to alleviate depression.
Exercise also releases endorphins, known as feel-good chemicals, which give you a feeling of euphoria and act as a pain reliever. Endorphins are responsible for the “runner’s high” many people experience during endurance workouts.
Regular exercise has also shown to lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol levels are low, you experience less anxiety and tension.
Fitness and Self-Esteem
Fitness also improves your self-esteem, which also helps to alleviate the symptoms of depression. When you set fitness goals and work to reach them, you show yourself you’re capable of more than you thought. You become proud of your accomplishments, and yourself, all which boost low self-esteem.
When low self-esteem begins improving, the signs and symptoms of depression lessen. You no longer feel out of control and hopeless. Instead, you see change is possible and what you can accomplish when you want something and work hard toward achievement.
Improving Depression with Fitness
If you’re depressed, consider adding a fitness routine either instead of or in combination with medication and therapy. Regular exercise improves many symptoms of depression. It helps you fall asleep faster and improves sleep quality. In addition, exercise increases energy and keeps you focused — reducing stress levels and giving you something to look forward to on a daily basis.
- Find an activity you enjoy. When you decide to get fit, do it by finding an activity you like. If you hate to run but start a running program, you’re setting yourself for failure. You can join a gym, an aerobics class, a volleyball team, or even a walking club.
- Set realistic and measurable goals. When you set and reach realistic fitness goals, you’re more likely to stay motivated. Instead of goals like “Get skinny” or “Lose 50 pounds,” set goals including “Exercise three times this week” or “Lose 10 pounds.”
- Enlist an accountability buddy for motivation. When you’re just beginning a fitness routine, it’s difficult to stay motivated, especially when you’re depressed. Instead of doing it alone, enlist the help of a friend with similar goals. You motivate each other, and both reach your fitness goals.
- Do cardio. Aerobic and cardio exercises have the quickest and strongest impact on depression. Try to get in 20 to 30 minutes of activity daily, three to five days a week. Any activity getting your heart beating counts, so grab a water bottle and walk around the block.
- Strength train. It’s not just cardio that helps you feel better. By incorporating strength training into your fitness routine, you learn to gain control. Because strength training requires your full concentration, it helps you let go of stress and reduces negative self-talk.
- Do yoga. Yoga has a huge antidepressant effect on the body. It builds strength, slows down your breathing, and creates a mindfulness that helps you let go of stress and anxiety.