If you suffer from depression, you know it can impact almost every area of your life, making it difficult to sleep at night and even more difficult to get out of bed in the morning. To help solve the problem, some people turn to prescription antidepressants which can cause side effects almost as bad as the symptoms of depression itself.
How do antidepressants work? Prescription antidepressants artificially alter the levels of certain brain neurotransmitters which help to relieve some of the hopelessness and loss of motivation associated with depression. Fortunately, there are natural ways to alter neurotransmitter levels by eating the right foods and, in some cases, taking supplements. One natural way to relieve the common symptoms of depression is through exercise.
Although exercising may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re feeling down and depressed, intense movement can cause some amazing changes in your biochemistry that help to boost mood and improve many of the symptoms of depression.
Why is exercise effective for relieving depression? The answer lies in the endorphins your body produces when you start moving for sustained periods of time. Endorphins are small protein molecules that interact with receptors in your brain and nervous system to reduce pain and produce a peaceful sensation. These are the same brain chemicals responsible for the “runner’s high” that so many runners experience after running longer distances.
Although exercise to relieve depression sounds good in a theoretical sense, are there any studies to back up its effectiveness? A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined the effectiveness of exercise for relieving the symptoms of depression. It was found that engaging in any type of exercise significant reduced symptoms with the greatest improvement seen in people who did moderately intense workouts consisting of jogging or riding a stationary bike three to five days a week a week. Symptom reductions were also seen with low intensity exercise, although the effects were less pronounced. It appears that exercise for a sustained period of time at a moderate to high intensity level is best to relieve depression.
Exercise may also have other benefits when it comes to relieving the symptoms of depression. Staying active and reaching new fitness goals helps to build self-esteem and athletic skills that can be mood elevating. Exercise can also help improve sleep patterns in some depressed people.
Although you shouldn’t discontinue your antidepressants without contacting your doctor, exercise can be a natural way to relieve some of the common symptoms of depression while improving you body image and self esteem. Why not make time for some daily exercise?