The estimated 19 million adults across the country who suffer from depression know that there is no way to appropriately express how crippling it can be. For those not familiar with the illness, the National Institute of Mental Health defines it as “a common but serious illness…[that] interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you.”
Depression is treatable, usually with counseling, anti-depressants, or a combination of both. But research suggests there might be an additional option, just as effective as anti-depressants.
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 is a great tool because it can be used alongside any other treatment plan without any side effects or issues.
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.
Exercise Releases Endorphins
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.
Increased Serotonin Levels
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.