Exercise: How it helps when you’re depressed


Please enjoy my guest post this week from Dr. Zita Weber on how exercise helps depression. (To any of my previous students, remember, I always told you that studies have shown exercise helps as much as medication.) 

HaveMatWillTri.com: Exercise helps depression

Photo from Flickr/canonsnapper

Researchers tell us that exercise is an important value-added part of a daily well-being.  Exercise works for both our physical and mental well-being. In fact, exercise has been found to release endorphins, which are considered natural opiates.  So, after we’ve exercised, we feel a sense of well-being.

The good news is that you don’t have to run a marathon or climb a mountain to get the benefits of exercise.  Any regular physical activity that raises your pulse rate and makes you puff a little is adequate exercise.  Whatever exercise you choose, you must do it regularly to get the physical and mental fitness benefits.  Twenty minutes on each occasion is good, and an hour is ideal.

Think about going for a brisk walk or doing a yoga or gym class or perhaps going for a swim.  It’s important to find some form of exercise that suits your temperament and time because if you’re not going to enjoy the activity, you’ll soon give up on the exercise resolution!

Getting – and staying motivated

The key to getting the most out of exercise is to make it a regular part of your life.  It should be a kind of routine thing that you do and doesn’t seem like another chore in your life.  When you’re feeling depressed, it’s sometimes difficult to start new activities, however helpful you’ve been told – or know – they are.

How you can get started

  • Making plans to begin an exercise program is a good first step
  • Plan to do your nominated activity at least three times a week
  • Tell a trusted friend about your plans and ask for their support
  • Join an established yoga or gym class to feel part of a community of people committed to their well-being

Plan an activity that you enjoy – walking, cycling, swimming playing tennis, surfing – the list is endless.  It’s always easier to stick to an exercise regime which gives you pleasure – and that natural high.

Remember, when you find your resolve slipping and you feel low and don’t have the energy to follow-through on your commitment, call on that trusted friend to provide support and encouragement.  Positive nudges from people you know and trust can help you to remain committed to your plan to exercise regularly.

HaveMatWillTri.com: Exercise helps depression

Photo from Flickr/miamifitnesstv

Embrace unexpected exercise

You’ll feel better if you feel in control of your fitness and energy levels.  Sometimes you can exercise unexpectedly – so go on, embrace those times!  How about taking your walking shoes to work so that you can go for a walk with colleagues at lunchtime?  Why not keep your swimming gear and towel in your car, because you never know when the opportunity to go for a swim will arise.  Use the stairs instead of the lift at work every other day and remember to park your car a little further away from the entrance to the shopping mall.

To learn about more strategies to deal with depression, see Losing the 21st Century Blues


Zita Weber, Ph.D. is an author and honorary academic, and has worked as a counsellor and therapist with individuals, couples and families.  She has researched and written about communication, anxiety, stress, relationships, sexuality, depression and loss and grief.  More information about her work and books can be found at:  http://zitaweber.com

I look forward to your replies and comments