We all agree that exercise helps us to become stronger and fitter physically. Have you thought about the power of exercise on our mental health? In recent years, it has become more apparent that exercise can improve our moods and even our memories and thinking skills.
Today, many doctors and psychiatrists believe that exercise can be as effective as anti-depressant for mild to moderate depression. Some countries have even started prescribing exercise as a treatment for both physical and mental conditions. From my own experience, I can tell you that exercise has worked as my anti-depressant treatment to fight against mild depression and anxiety.
Scientists are not entirely certain on how exercise improves our mood but what we know from statistics is that
- Regular exercise helps reducing anxiety
- Exercise can be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression
Signs of depression
Recognising and admitting that you are suffering a depression is the first step in getting better. We often accept that feeling sad and depressed as part of grieving or as we experience stress and sad news in our lives. But if it goes on for too long, and is affecting your daily routine, your work, and your relationship with others, you might be suffering from depression. Watch out for these signs:
- Feeling hopeless for your future and life
- Lost interests in things that you love
- Feeling tired and fatigue
- Insomnia, troubled sleeping or finding yourself impossible to get out of bed
- Get irritated easily
- Changes in appetite and weight
In my mid-twenties, I was reaching my melting point from work pressure, personal difficulties and feeling homesick living in a foreign country. At some point, I lost hope in my future and had almost all the symptoms mentioned above. Not until someone told me I should talk to a professional and that I might suffer from depression, I started dealing with the problem.
After recognising it, I tried to cope but as depression continued, I struggled to focus, concentrate and to enjoy things in life. I really had to kick my butt to get anything done but running was what helped me. I remember the only time I felt good was during a run and after I ran. Running was like a mild anti-depressant for me. The good feeling from running would of course not last forever but it made my problems more manageable. It helped me slowly getting back on my feet through baby steps. I felt a bit better each time after a run, I then managed to do a little bit more. It was a long process, but I eventually got out of it and managed to do the necessary things in life like working, and socialising. Fast forward 10 years into my mid-thirties, running once again played a vital role as I fought cancer. It helped me to stop thinking myself as a cancer patient. I felt strong every time I ran. It gave me the confidence to fight and to believe that I will get through it. Physically, running and keeping fit was also extremely important for my recovery.
Here are 5 tips that I hope will improve the benefits of exercise on your mental health from my personal experience
- Try exercising outdoor : One benefits more from exercising outdoor. The sunshine, the fresh air and perhaps the vitamin D too helps to uplift our minds. If you live in a sunny country or during good summer days, try getting out rather than working out in a gym.
- Keeping a good sleeping hygiene: Exercise regularly is already a first step in having a good night sleep. But a good sleep can in return helps you to exercise more regularly and vital in fighting depression. In one of my previous blogs, you will find further tips on getting a good night sleep.
- Make an exercise plan: You are less likely to skip or give yourself excuses not to exercise if you have a plan.
- A few minutes can be all your need: When you are not well, you feel extremely fatigue. Getting out and exercise feels like an impossible task. But a few minutes of walking or easy jogging is all you need to feel a little bit better
- Sign up for an easy run: It is a great way to meet up with someone and stop isolating yourself from your little 'black hole'. The electric atmosphere from a race can also do wonder to your minds.
If you know or think you are suffering from depression, make sure that you talk to your doctor about it and also before starting any exercise or diet routines. After nearly two years of this pandemic, many of us are struggling with our mental health. I hope that my experience and tips will help you gain the benefits of exercise and slowly help you to get through some difficult times.
If you just happen to be in Oslo on the 28th August, join us in the city centre for Sentrumsløpet! We will also be using the brand new app Mind Uplifter to see how running will help uplifting the spirit of Oslo!
Picture by Sylvain Cavatz
Seniorforsker fra Oslo
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