Whether you’ve been diagnosed with clinical depression or just feel a bit under the weather, we’ve all had times when our mental health needs some TLC. These 5 reasons explain why exercise is an effective tool you can use to treat depression and get back to feeling like yourself!
By Abby Cronin
1. It’s As Effective As Cognitive Therapy
We’ve heard gym rats say their gym time is their “therapy”, and there’s a hint of truth to that. Scientists have discovered that exercise is just as effective as a visit to your therapist, and will probably be a lot more fun! To get the best of both worlds, add 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise to your day in addition to therapy sessions if you have them.
2. It Kickstarts Neurotransmitter Production
We all know the good things exercise does for our bodies, but did you know it’s great for your brain’s health too?
Neurotransmitters are our brain’s “happy chemicals”, and tend to be low in people with depression. Scientists have linked exercise to an increase in these neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which means you get happier just by being active!
3. It’s a Great Distraction
Though we’ve heard before that it’s not good to run from your problems, science says otherwise. The “distraction” hypothesis suggests physical activity can distract us from our worries and depressive thoughts. While activities like social contact and relaxation have been shown to effectively treat depression, exercise is the only known treatment that increases the “positive affect” necessary to experience pleasure.
4. It Improves Your Self Esteem
Not only does exercise help your physical body, it improves the way you think of yourself! A defining characteristic of depression is lack of self confidence, and scientists have discovered that exercise is a great way to combat negative self-talk.
Whether it’s a simple walk on the treadmill or an intense weight lifting session in the gym, accomplishing a task automatically improves feelings of self-worth and can help treat depression.
5. No Side Effects
One of the most positive benefits of using exercise to treat depression is that there are no unpleasant side effects. Whereas antidepressants often cause nausea, weight gain, or fatigue, the only uncomfortable side effect you may experience with exercise is some muscle soreness! While exercise may not be enough alone to treat depression, it can make managing it much easier while on medication.