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The Exercise Connection: How Activity Helps With Depression

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For many health conditions, moderate daily exercise can help to reduce symptoms. This remains true even for mental health problems, including clinical depression and anxiety. If you are suffering from depression, one of the last things you might feel like doing is working out or even leaving the house. 

However, if you understand the benefits of exercise and how it can help ease the symptoms of depression during medical treatment, you may be more convinced to give exercise a try. 

Exercise Boosts Mood

In the short term, physical activity provides "feel good" hormones for your brain and body. Many enthusiastic athletes talk about phenomenons like a "runner's high" that comes from these endorphins. However, the benefits go beyond a simple release of pleasurable hormones. During a workout, you raise your body's stress response. Your heart beats faster and you have to compensate for extra physical demands. After the workout, you recover.

With regular exercise, your body adapts to the stress by raising the threshold. Simply put, it will take more external physical and mental stimuli to raise your heart rate and release stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine. This means that when you are at rest, the stress of depression and anxiety will also be reduced, even though they come from a different source. 

You Get Other Gains

Studies show that the benefits of exercise as a method of treating depression last a long time. One survey of participants in a 12-week program found that the mental health benefits could last as long as a year. With continued exercise, you build up a reservoir of greater stamina. 

What Works

Unfortunately, many people with depression don't know where to begin. They might think there is no activity they could enjoy or stick to for very long. It's essential to get suggestions from your doctor or counselor on what activities could be best. Some may enjoy taking brisk walks, others might enjoy hiking, cycling, or joining an aerobics class.

It's also important to recognize that even anaerobic exercise, like lifting weights or yoga, is beneficial. Yoga-like exercise improves meditation and the connection between mind and body. Lifting weights is shown in studies to have a relatively equal effect in comparison moderate cardio.

There is no right or wrong type of activity to get started with. Choose something you enjoy, or at least something you did enjoy in the past and could see yourself enjoying again. For more information, contact a depression treatment center like Dr Kuris Counseling Centers to get on the path to greater wellness.