Exercise is a well known tool for fighting depression. But if you’re struggling to find the motivation to start working out it’s hard to know what to do.
Leading a healthy, happy lifestyle is all down to behavior change. Tackling each day by making small, manageable and positive changes is the key to building habits that helps you feel and look great.
Exercise is a great way to reduce the symptoms of depression.
But it’s easy to say that when you don’t have the cloud of anxiety and low mood hanging over you. Because that can make things so much tougher to get out there and keep fit.
But you CAN do it.
And you WILL do it.
In this article we’ll tell you everything you need to know to fight depression and find your exercise motivation.
Fighting depression and changing your life through exercise
As a sufferer of depression you’re certainly not alone. There are currently 350 million people worldwide that suffer from this illness – that’s the equivalent of 7% of the population on this planet.
Depression is an illness characterized by feelings of dejection or despondency that last for a prolonged period of time.
It’s more than just feeling a little sad or down and can have big effect on your day today life.
The symptoms of depression can vary, but generally include:
- Low mood for the majority of the day
- Feeling worthless or of no value
- Lack of sleep or even sleeping too much
- Not taking any pleasure from anything you do
Exercise shown to benefit those with moderate depression
Coping with a debilitating mental illness can be tough. You’ll have had ‘good days’ when you feel like you can be active and get through your normal day-to-day tasks, and others where just getting out of bed is a struggle.
Research shows that exercise might not help if you have severe depression
Recent research has shown that in those that suffer aggressive, extreme forms of depression, exercise might not help. That’s because symptoms can be so severe that even putting on a pair of running sneakers can be impossible, let alone facing the world and going for a run.
Never come off your medication unless told by your health professional
It’s worth mentioning that exercise will never replace the need for medication if you’re a severe depression sufferer. It would be unethical and unprofessional for anyone other than your doctor to suggest you grab a pair of running trainers instead of your meds.
Finding Exercise Motivation Tips: Fighting Depression With Fitness
Current guidelines suggest that if you suffer from mild-to-moderate depression you should aim to be active for 30 minutes or more each day to help manage your symptoms.
The intensity is kind of irrelevant as you’re not necessarily aiming to improve your muscle mass or lose weight – it’s more about getting your brain releasing feel good chemicals and building structure into your day.
But it can be easier said than done. If you struggle to fin exercise motivation you won’t want to be active.
But here’s how finding exercise motivation and fighting depression WILL happen.
Exercise can be made specific to your goals
The best thing about exercise is it isn’t a one-size-fits-all way of getting healthy. By planning the types of exercise you enjoy most and ditching the ones you don’t like, you’ll be much more likely to commit.
Take your time to think about what you might enjoy most – classes, walking, weight training, sports. And make it the center point of your exercise plan.
If you really dislike running on a treadmill for example, don’t do it. It’s not motivating to have to do something you don’t like.
Start off small, and let it grow from there
Although the government suggest 30 minutes of activity everyday, this might seem like a huge thing right now. After all, going from no exercise to daily activity is a bug jump.
But by setting smaller targets such as being active on 3 days of the week is much more achievable… and motivating.
Building positive habits is important for anyone suffering from depression. And putting unfair pressure on yourself do change too much, too soon, isn’t the way forward.
Avoid heart-pounding, full-force exercise at first. Just clock up some hours of light activity each week to begin with and build up from there.
Exercise boosts endorphins and lifts your mood
The main aim of exercise for you right now is to change your brain chemistry. Depression is caused by an imbalance between hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
Exercise builds confidence, self-esteem and self-worth. But it also directly changes your brain chemistry by releasing neurotransmitters called endorphins – mood enhancers that are similar to morphine.
When you workout, the production of endorphins increases. It does this to provide an analgesic effect and optimize energy levels.
And endorphins bind to the same receptors in your brain as depression medication does. Which means it’s a great way of elevating mood without the side effects of long-term medication use.
Exercise might help you reduce your medication
Although no one should other than your doctor should ever tell you to reduce your medication, you might find that regular exercise does indeed help you manage your symptoms.
In fact some research papers suggest that exercise “improves depressive symptoms to a comparable extent as pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy”.
If you feel like you don’t need your medication anymore speak to your health professional.
Make sure you reward yourself
If you’re able to exercise for a few days at a time, make sure you reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or a junk food meal or anything, but rewards are good ways of building habits.
It could be that you treat yourself to that summer dress you liked. Or a book that you heard was good.
Regardless of what the actual reward is, it’s important that you treat yourself for your hard work.
Exercise at home where you can go at your own pace
Sometimes you just don’t feel like you want to go out in public or be seen red faced, puffing and sweating in the gym.
And that’s cool. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Being able to take part in a 30 minute circuit home workout involving just body weight exercise is a great way of getting those endorphins flowing and burning calories in the comfort of your own company.
And while we’d always advocate getting some fresh air and being around other people, a home workout is most definitely better than no workout.
Use your most motivating music to get your body moving
Whether it’s the latest dance compilation or some gritty rock tunes from yesteryear, music has to power to change your mood in an instance.
Loading up your most motivating playlist is a great way to feel upbeat, get into the swing of exercise and feel more positive about your day.
Summary – How to fight depression and find your exercise motivation
Depression is a disorder that can leave you feeling low, unmotivated and not wanting to exercise at all – even though you know that being active will help you manage your symptoms.
These hints and tips will give you the boost you need to take that big step to an active lifestyle.
Remember that a little goes a long way, and above all else, be positive.
You’ll get there in no time.