Exercise: The Age Old Remedy in the Fight Against Depression

Mental health awareness is arguably the highest it has ever been, as researchers and society begin to improve their understanding of various mental health conditions that continue to plague the population. Currently a whopping 1 million people are suffering from depression in Australia alone, this confronting statistic shows how common this mental illness is, and that something needs to be done to help curb those numbers. Treatments for depression include medication prescribed by a psychiatrist and psychological treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy, but there is one treatment that is quickly climbing the list as a readily recommended treatment, exercise.

Benefits of Exercise

Anyone who has enjoyed a good exercise session already knows how great it can leave you feeling, but the research is now starting to catch up with what we already intrinsically know. Some studies have even shown exercise to have comparable results to treatment with medication, as well as providing good results in conjunction with other forms of treatment.

We know that exercise is good for us and makes us feel great, but why? There are multiple facets that answer this question, all of which can play a role in improving the quality of life and reduction in symptoms for those suffering from depression.  One way it can help is by changing your brain chemistry and leading to a rush of endorphins, providing a sense of well-being. There is also the social factor, in that if you exercise with other people, the interactions you have with them can provide you with a support network and give you that social interaction you need to get you out of a low period. The third major way that exercise can help is by distracting you from the issues that are bothering you, stopping worrying or rumination occurring. As an added bonus, exercising can help you feel more empowered, boosting self-esteem.

Recommendations

The key is to take this great information and apply it in a way that will work for you. I have provided a list of recommendations that can help you on your way to a better, more empowered life:

    Perform exercise that you enjoy- This may seem obvious but if you don’t do a mode of exercise that you like, you will be less likely to feel better after it and stick with it for the long term.
  • Exercise with friends- Stay connected with your friend’s network in a positive way, rather than looking at a screen or indulging in greasy food, head to the gym or go for a walk and chat about life. You could even use exercise as an opportunity to make new friends by joining a sporting club or new active hobby.
  • Try something new- If you’ve ever seen a hobby or sport and thought ‘that looks interesting’, go ahead and try it out. You might uncover a new hobby or passion to focus your energy on and get you through those rough times (and it’s an added bonus if you bring friends along).
  • Do something you can commit to- If you have a particularly hectic schedule, try small bouts of exercise every day like a 20 minute walk or a 10 minute jog. Attempt to stick to this for a couple of weeks and then chip away at increasing the amount you do.
  • Spend some time outdoors- It is amazing what a bit of fresh air and sunlight can do for your spirits, so make the time and go and enjoy the outdoors. Try anything from a wilderness hike to a walk around your neighbourhood.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and there is always support out there, with people willing to help. So go forth and take that first step to improving your life, there’s no better time than now.

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