According to the Harvard Health Letter, 1 in 10 adults suffers from depression. Other sources estimate this number to be even higher than 10% of the adult population. With the stigma surrounding mental health, it can be difficult to admit that you are struggling with depression and at times even more difficult to find an effective treatment.
Anti-depressants have become the go to answer for a large number of patients and doctors, but it seems that far too often this is simply masking the symptoms while the underlying problem remains intact. Even worse, pharmaceuticals can come with unpleasant side effects and lose efficacy over time, leaving patients worse than before.
So what is this all natural treatment option that I hint at in the title? Exercise!
Now, before we get too deep into how exercise can help in coping with depression and anxiety I must preface this by saying two things:
1. I am not a doctor and my intention behind writing this article is NOT to contradict any physicians orders, but to bring awareness to a potential treatment option for a serious problem in society that I too have dealt with first hand.
2. Research has shown that exercise alone is NOT enough for those suffering from major depression. If you or someone you know is suffering from major depression then PLEASE seek professional help. You are not weak for needing help and it is not something that should be faced alone.
With that said, let's get into the benefits that exercise has in treating depression and anxiety!
1. Moderate to intense exercise causes the release of norepinephrine, which is a hormone critical to the fight or flight response. Low levels of norepinephrine are often associated with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and difficulty focusing. By naturally raising the levels of this hormone in the body it can potentially decrease these symptoms.
2. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins associated with happiness and euphoria. You have likely heard of this phenomenon termed the "runner's high". Fear not though, you don't need to run for hours on end to see these benefits. Moderate to intense efforts of 30+ minutes are typically sufficient to release these chemicals.
3. Sticking to a fitness plan helps to prevent cognitive decline associated with the natural aging process, keeping you sharp and alert for longer!
4. The physical benefits of fitness (losing weight, gaining muscle, feeling better) are often associated with feeling more confident and developing a greater feeling of self-worth.
5. The physical and cognitive demands of difficult exercise will tax the body, increasing the need for rest and recovery. A difficult workout is often more effective than taking a sleeping pill as your body will need a good night's rest that much more! For an even more effective experience with using exercise to aid with sleep you can incorporate more one-sided movements into your workouts. Doing movements such as single-arm rows, single arm bench press, etc, has been associated with greater demands placed on your brain, thus demanding more rest.
These are just a few of the potential benefits that exercise can bring in treating anxiety and depression, but it is an extremely powerful treatment option to be aware of and use to take control of your mental and physical help alike.
For any help, please don't hesitate to reach out to us on social media or through email!
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“The Mental Health Benefits of Exercise.” HelpGuide.org, 19 June 2019, www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm.
Harvard Health Publishing. “Exercise Is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression.
Harvard Health Publishing. “What Are the Real Risks of Antidepressants?” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/what-are-the-real-risks-of-antidepressants.
“Norepinephrine - ADHD, Depression & Low Blood Pressure: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, 11 Dec. 2015, www.everydayhealth.com/norepinephrine/guide/.