Now that the whole world is in lockdown and can’t go to the gym, the owner Martin at Rapida – Trening i Bodø says “it is unsurprising that many find themselves depressed or actually fall into a full-blown depression.” However, there is a way to cope with negative feelings – exercise has been proven to fight depression. Here’s how:
- First off, when working out endorphins are released – the feel-good hormones that make you feel happy. That’s the reason why you hear about the “runner’s high” that so many jogging addicts report. Studies have found that 20 or 30 minutes of aerobic exercise is enough to kick off the production of these euphoric hormones. On top of this, mood-enhancing chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine are released during the workouts too, that can linger on in your brain for a couple of hours after you are done training. It should be noted, though, that the exercise effect is observed during high-intensity workouts, so a simple stretch won’t do.
- Second, aerobic exercise such as a HIIT session, increases the release of proteins, which generate nerve cells in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with emotions, and make new connections. Moreover, exercise impacts your brain both in the moment and long-term too so the benefits of physical training on your mental well-being are long-lasting, making you more emotionally stable over time.
- Third, exercise sends oxygen to your brain that helps cope with anxiety and depression. How does this work? When you work out, your heart rate goes up and your body pumps more oxygen to your brain, thereby positively affecting your overall mood: research has shown that the more oxygenated your brain is, the less likely you are to feel anxious or depressed.
- Last, but not least, physical training helps to take your mind off negative thoughts. Can you imagine worrying about your student debt when you have a 10-mile run to sweat through?
Overall, there is a consensus among the scientists that aerobic activity such as cycling and swimming seem to be the best for alleviating depression. Yet, it should be acknowledged that there are simply more studies done on aerobic activity, and thereby more gentle physical activities such as yoga and pilates may be neglected. Don’t despair just yet: there is promising research that shows yoga can have as positive an impact on your brain as aerobic exercise – there are just fewer studies done on the subject.
Last piece of advice – make sure to integrate workouts into your routine before nerve cell improvement begins to ease your depression symptoms. Also, give different workouts a try before settling on the one that you enjoy most – exercise shouldn’t feel like punishment, and ultimately, should leave you feeling good about yourself. How about blasting the biggest 80s hits and doing aerobics with Jane Fonda? I’ll guarantee you’ll feel upbeat straight away!
Disclaimer: if after exercising regularly you still observe depression symptoms that interfere with your daily life, consult your doctor. Physical training is excellent for alleviating depression, but it is no substitute for therapy or medications.