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The very activity that will ease the symptoms of an illness can often be the hardest of all to do. This is very much the case when it comes to exercise and depression.
Depression is often accompanied by feelings of fatigue, which means exercise is pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do. When experiencing low moods and tiredness, very few people will want to take a brisk walk in the sunshine or head to the gym to work up a sweat.
Effectiveness of Exercise in the Treatment of Depression
The Department of Health reports “At least five a week: Evidence on the impact of physical activity and its relationship to health” states that exercise can treat mental illness as effectively as medication. It is also apparent from the report that reduced levels of activity can result in future episodes of depression. Exercise may, in fact, also offer preventative benefits in terms of mental illness.
The most effective forms of exercise in the treatment of depression appear to be aerobic. Jogging, swimming or even walking can all be successful in reducing symptoms of depression.
Benefits of Exercise
Many people suffering from depression find that their sleep patterns are disturbed, either sleeping too much or struggling to sleep at all. There is evidence, as set out in the Department of Health report, that people who undertake regular exercise are able to get to sleep more quickly and enjoy better quality sleep. Sufficient sleep should help alleviate feelings of fatigue and so ease this particular symptom of depression.
Weight-gain can often be experienced during depression, which may be a consequence of comfort eating, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle or antidepressant medication. This can lead to increasingly low self-esteem and reluctance to socialise, which may, in turn, lower mood even further.
Exercising for 30 minutes, five times a week can help with weight management and, combined with a healthy diet, can even result in weight loss. For someone who has been feeling down about their appearance, this could be the boost their self-esteem needs in order to feel a little better about themselves.
Starting to Exercise
Getting started can be the biggest hurdle of all. It is worth remembering that exercise does not have to be a gruelling hour-long work out in an expensive gym. Walking is an aerobic activity that costs absolutely nothing and has all the health benefits of any other aerobic exercise.
It would be wise for anyone considering embarking upon a new exercise regime to consult their doctor, particularly if other medical conditions are present. A medical professional may be able to recommend a particular form of exercise or prescribe an exercise programme suited to the individual’s needs.
Not everyone will be able to treat their depression through exercise alone. There are many highly effective antidepressant medications available, and it may be the case that medication is required in order to control symptoms before a programme of exercise can be commenced.
Exercise is one of the most effective ways of treating depression. Maintaining a regular exercise regime can not only ease the symptoms of depression, it can prevent a relapse in the future.