Researchers have been studying exercise and depression for decades and the results indicate exercise can be a great tool for dealing with symptoms and potentially feeling better long-term. Exercise doesn’t carry the same stigma as counseling or anti-depressants and working out can be free, whereas medication and doctors visits can cost hundreds. Exercise also helps people feel better right away—no other treatment options can claim such quick results.
Read on to find out the 10 ways being active can help with depression.
Endorphins, known for relieving pain and promoting positive feelings, are chemicals naturally produced in the brain during exercise. These chemicals are responsible for the feeling of euphoria after exercise, commonly described as the “runner’s high.” While anti-depressants usually take days or weeks to start helping with depression symptoms, endorphins could help relieve symptoms in minutes.
Serotonin is another naturally occurring chemical that regulates mood, appetite and the sleep cycle. Low levels of serotonin are tied to depression and though many chemicals influence mood, serotonin is one of the most significant. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of serotonin in the brain—improving mood, restoring appetite and promoting more restful sleep.
A study from the University of Georgia determined that over the course of a few weeks, regular exercise can increase the level of galanin in the brain. Galanin is a peptide neurotransmitter that seems to help the body better handle stress. The stress tests were done on lab rats, but researchers think the results are likely to carry over for humans dealing with daily stresses, as well.
Some research suggests that an increase in body temperature may have calming effects.
Looking good, feeling good and accomplishing goals are all results of a regular fitness routine and they all help boost self-esteem. A better self-image can improve both mood and mindset.
Exercise helps increase levels of serotonin, which in turn lead to healthier sleep patterns. A major symptom of depression is insomnia, so it’s especially important to get in a workout and reap the benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Better sleep means more energy, but exercise itself gives off its own major boost. Rigorous workouts improve blood flow and get more oxygen to the brain, which often means a clearer mind and an invigorated body.
Regular exercise is incredibly effective at preventing or alleviating a number of serious illnesses. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer top the list of issues you can combat with a good exercise regimen.
Depression can be especially debilitating when people suffering get caught up in negative thoughts. Experts believe that being active and focusing on workouts can help keep the mind busy and relieve some of that negative thinking.
It’s been said that working out with friends will keep you invested and accountable to your fitness goals, but workout buddies bring other benefits, too. Exercising with friends can help foster feelings of connectedness and dispel feelings of loneliness, which is a common problem for depressed people.