The benefits of exercise have been studied endlessly. One of the benefits that is repeatedly touted is that exercise can enhance your mood and make you happier. As you get older you it’s important to remind yourself of this daily. Sometimes it’s easier to promise yourself you will get back on track tomorrow.
When it comes to exercise no time is better than the present to do it. Movement promotes healing, both mentally and physically, so putting exercise off could negatively impact your mood and eventually lead to worsening depression.
Exercise vs. Antidepressants
Harvard Medical School looked at several clinical studies that measured the effects of exercise as compared to antidepressant drugs to relieve symptoms of depression. It found that people who exercised regularly were less likely to fall back into a state of depression.
Similar to the way antidepressants work, exercise may stimulate norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that improves mood. Exercise also enhances the action of endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals in the body that boost natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests the benefits of exercise may be long lasting, unlike the use of pharmaceuticals that need to be taken daily. Antidepressants often come with unpleasant side effects that make exercise difficult for some. Daily physical training could reduce the need for medications, or at least reduce the amount of medications necessary.
Other Health Benefits
In addition to lifting your mood regular exercise can lower blood pressure, boost self-esteem, protect against cardiovascular disease, and aid in the prevention of cancer. To achieve these benefits, it is advised that you participate in 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise, such as power walking in fresh air, each day.
A Few Good Exercises for Depression
Several experts recommend mixing up your exercise routine to work all the muscle groups and to protect joints. If you do cardio one day, try strength training and weights the next day, and a low impact exercise like swimming the following day. Here are some of the best exercises to help ward off depression.
Aerobic exercise seems to have an edge over other forms of training in battling depression. Have you ever heard of a “runner’s high?” This is the feeling a person gets when the release of endorphins causes a euphoric feeling and acts as a natural pain reliever. Just 30 minutes of running can make this release happen.
In a study published in 2005, 24 women who claimed to have emotional distress and anxiety took two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months. After three months, the women reported improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, energy, fatigue, and their overall well-being.
Resistance training has been shown to be a good intervention for people suffering from anxiety. Two noted studies compared the effects of high-intensity resistance training to moderate-intensity training and found that anxiety was better reduced with the moderate-intensity resistance training. Resistance training can be performed with weights, universal equipment, or even just elastic bands.
As with any medical condition, it’s important to speak with a health care professional before embarking on a new exercise regimen. It is best to know what your body is capable of to avoid overdoing it.