Preventing and Combating Depression With Exercise
By: Whitney Neal
Exercise is not just about muscle gain or increasing aerobic capacity. Sure, exercising can improve your physical health and your physique, but did you also know that several studies have shown that physical activity can help reduce depression? Physical activity encourages the release of endorphins, which are powerful chemicals in the brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good, and can also relieve tension and stress. Exercise can even serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that fuel depression. Studies done about the intensity of exercise completed suggest that both moderate and vigorous exercise can reduce symptoms of depression, although no studies investigated the effects of exercise frequency or duraiton.
Are you wondering now just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost? It is probably not as much as you think. You do not have to spend hours in a gym or force yourself into long, monotonous workouts that are not enjoyable just to experience the many benefits to exercise. Even a few minutes of physical activity are better than nothing at all. A short walk during your lunch break or after dinner can help clear your mind, improve your mood, and boost your energy level. It is okay to start small and work your way up. Set achievable goals for yourself and build up from there.
To reap the most benefits of exercise in relation to depression, check out NCHPAD’s 14 Weeks to a Healthier You. This free, personalized web-based physical activity program can help you get moving and on the right track to making healthier nutrition choices. Here is the program link: http://www.nchpad.org/14weeks/.