Our State of Mind: Exercise & Depression

Whether or not you have been diagnosed with depression, this article is for you.

Wondering why is that? Well, that’s because we all experience periods of low self-esteem/ belief, loneliness, low motivation and mood which impact on our state of mind over a shorter or more prolonged period of time. For that reason, we should all know why it is that we should exercise.

For those who have been clinically diagnosed with depression, there have been other interventions, one of them being medications (antidepressants), implemented which have side effects if used for a prolonged period of time. These side effects include nausea, fatigue and weight gain through increased appetite which highlights the importance of lifestyle modifications with the aim to increase the overall sense of health and wellbeing while helping to manage the side-effects of pharmacological interventions.

EXERCISE IS THE FIRST STEP

As per numerous literature papers, exercise is the first step in lifestyle modification for prevention and management of mental disorders and chronic diseases. Via the same pathways, an exercise is a proactive approach to prevention and treatment of conditions affecting mind and body such as depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and many more. Regular exercise causes the release of commonly known “happy hormones” such as endorphins and serotonin, which regulate mood, sleep and appetite which, when elevated, alleviate mood, self-esteem, increase energy, decrease anxiety and improve sleep.

WHAT TYPE OF EXERCISE HELPS?

The specific exercise intensity, volume and type are different from person to person based on one’s likes/ dislikes, current mental and overall health status, current fitness and goals. In general, engaging in aerobic and strength training alongside a healthy diet is the best approach. This will lead to desirable physiological changes such as decreased blood sugar levels, decreased blood pressure, increased metabolism, increased skeletal muscle mass and strength, improved cardiovascular efficiency and mood.

By taking a holistic approach to health, it minimises the risk of narrowly focusing on one aspect, in this case, mental health, and disregarding others while the two are interrelated and cannot be viewed/ treated in isolation. For example, you are supposed to go gym this afternoon but you are feeling lethargic, lacking energy and motivation so you decide not to go. Instead, you stay at home and watch some TV which invites some unnecessary snacks along with it. Such a decision does not aid in the improvement in mood nor energy levels. Yet, when repeated over a period of time leads to poor outcomes. These outcomes will have a negative effect on the physiological markers, self-efficacy, mental state which when combined will have a detrimental effect on overall physical and psychological health and quality of life.

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