Monday, 12 October 2015

Using exercise to fight depression

Globally more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and many people don't seek treatment for a variety of reasons. I am one of those people and I struggled for years, but luckily I discovered a way to feel better that was manageable, cost free and most importantly for me at the time: private.

I have never been an active person. I was never in to sport at school. It was never a priority for me and I was always naturally slim growing up. Only in my late teens and early 20s did I start to notice my body changing and inevitably realise that no, I probably can't get away with doing no exercise for the rest of my life, and so I started to consider how to make a change.

I tried to get myself active multiple times, but it was also over these years that I had started to struggle with depression, and my state of mind and lack of confidence made it impossible to imagine going to a public gym.

It was only through stumbling upon a very structured, fun and home friendly online exercise programme that I found something that stuck and very quickly I noticed not only my physical health improving but, to my surprise, my mental health too.

I've since learned that people with depression often feel a loss of control over their lives, and doing exercise gives them back control of their bodies and can be the first step in gaining back control elsewhere. The structure of the plan was exactly what I needed.

I also discovered that when you exercise, your body releases serotonin and endorphins which interact with the receptors in your brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. Hence that little buzz at the end of a good workout, or the famous "runner's high". In fact, studies have shown that physical exercise can be as affective as anti depressant drugs, with none of the scary side affects.

This isn't to say that exercise is a 'cure' for depression - simply an effective treatment, and one I believe should be more widely talked about.

Have you had an experience with treating mental health issues with fitness and exercise? If so I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

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