We all know about the physical benefits of exercise, but very few people are aware of the psychological benefits that accompany a life-style including routine physical activity.
Researchers at Duke University have discovered that while medication has immediate effects on depression, exercise can provide a long-term solution that is just as effective. With the time change and extra daylight after work, it’s a great time to start exercising. Exercise helps with the treatment of depression in a number of ways:
- Chemical changes in the brain: Exercise produces chemical changes in the brain, boosting the level of serotonin, which causes a naturally positive state of mind. This is the same effect that medication has on the brain, although to a greater degree.
- A sense of well-being: Exercise can also replace feelings of anger, anxiety, panic or other strong emotions with a sense of well-being.
- Interactions with others: Psychologists note that social isolation is often a prevalent feature of depression. Exercising with another person or joining an exercise group or health club is a safe and healthy way to interact with others.
- Quality of sleep: Depression often interferes with sleeping patterns, and lack of sleep can heighten its symptoms. Exercise can improve the quality of sleep.
- Sense of accomplishment: People with depression sometimes doubt their own abilities, and exercise offers a tangible way to gain a sense of mastery. Success at meeting an exercise goal, no matter how small it is, can bring with it a sense of pride and accomplishment.
- Contact with the beautiful outdoors: Exercise can provide a great deal of contact with nature, which can lift the spirit and the dark moods that often accompany depression. It may also offer new focus, leading one to look outward and not let their focus rest on negative thoughts.