Can exercise really help depression?
It’s about three months into the year and you might have already broken your New Year’s resolution of working out or going to the gym. We may tell ourselves that we will start again at the beginning of the next month to give us that hope we will follow through. It’s okay because it happens to the best of us and we may not always restart that resolution. But what if I told you that exercising could improve mental health symptoms of depression? Would that motivate you to want to work on yourself and see what it can do?
Most of the time when we are depressed we certainly don’t want to get off the couch or get up to get dressed and go to the gym. But sometimes we just need to push ourselves and start small and progress to bigger goals.
Did you know that doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms? Smaller amounts of physical activity as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time can also make a difference. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or bicycling.
You are probably thinking, where do I start and how do I stay motivated with this? Well to start off, find something that you enjoy doing. This may be going for long walks on the beach, hiking local trails, playing basketball, going swimming, or going for a run.
Then start by setting realistic goals. If you have been on the couch for the past few months, it isn’t reasonable to try to go run a marathon. But perhaps start by going on a daily walk with a short distance and slowly increase the time and mileage.
It may be hard doing this alone and you may feel there are barriers to keep you from accomplishing your goals. Try to recognize those obstacles and problem solve. For example, if you’re self conscious, work out at home rather than at the gym. If you feel you need that extra boost of motivation, ask a friend or family member to work out with you or give you advice. If you don’t have money for fancy gym equipment, utilize objects that may be laying around the house.
While completing these goals, you may have set backs and that is perfectly fine! Give yourself some credit for even just getting up and completing one exercise. If you feel you are struggling to get or stay motivated, speaking with a counselor can help and explore your barriers. To get started with a free 15 minute consultation, click ‘schedule an appointment’ and let’s get you motivated!
Monica Bartley MS, SWT