Depression and Exercise | More Than You Think

Depression is a serious mental illness. Most of the time there is no single cause of depression, but rather a combination of factors that bring on depression; genetic, environmental, or a combination of the two can have an impact on the bodies ability to regulate the neuro-transmitters that are responsible for mood. Often hormones and glandular conditions will have a role in our mood and depressive symptoms and sometimes these can be controlled through exercise and other medications.

The effects of exercise on depression has been discussed often as a way of dealing with minor depression and anxiety; however, its effects on the body are far greater than merely “blowing off steam”. There are many effects on the body and hormones that are released so exercise effects mental health in more ways than just one.

The human body needs exercise to function at optimum levels; however, many of us have become quite sedentary. In days gone by a hard day’s work on the farm or factory was common among many Americans and not surprisingly we didn’t see the levels of insomnia, anxiety and depression that we do today. All of the gadgets that were supposed to make life easier have only made things more complicated, competitive and created demands on our lives that were never experienced in previous generations.

Most people do not get the recommended amount of exercise and our bodies will suffer because of it. Not only is obesity a major problem, but other issues such as diabetes, heart disease, lung capacity, energy levels, and other health problems arise from a lack of exercise. When you are unhealthy, your stress levels increase as you deal with changing body images and physical problems. For example the best way for men to increase their testosterone levels is by weight resistant exercise; many believe that this even surpasses the patches and creams that are available for testosterone replacement. The chemical makeup of your body changes because fat metabolizes chemicals and hormones a lot differently than muscles. These things combined with other risk factors can cause depression.

Researchers believe that regular exercise can increase the release of certain neurotransmitters in your brain. These neurotransmitters directly affect your moods. Exercise also releases hormones known as endorphins. These hormones are known as the feel good hormones. They can reduce pain, increase mood and help alleviate stress. Regular exercise will also ease tense muscles and help you sleep better, which in turn can help reduce the levels of the stress hormones, called glucocorticoids.

The recommended amount of exercise is 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week. If this is not attainable for you, try starting out small with just 10-15 minutes of exercise each day. This is about taking baby steps to build your confidence and physical stamina. The more that you exercise, the longer your sessions will become.  As your body begins to get back into shape and you start feeling better, you may notice that you will feel less depressed. You may even start looking forward to your exercise time. But before you start any exercise program, see your primary care doctor to get their recommendations on a safe exercise routine. In minor cases of situational depression, a good exercise routine and diet might be all it takes to take the edge off of your symptoms; in the case of clinical depression, exercise is a fantastic augmentation treatment to your medication. As your body becomes more efficient, so does the therapy. The effects of exercise on mental health including depression and anxiety are great and should never be overlooked or played down.

This article is intended for informational purposes and not to be used to diagnose or treat any mental illness