Do you ever find yourself struggling to stay happy and upbeat through everything life throws at you? Do you feel at times as if you’re sinking into a deep hole that you just can’t get out of? You are not alone! More than 15 million American adults are affected by depression. What’s worse is that over 80% of the people who have symptoms of clinical depression are not receiving any type of treatment to combat it.
As the drearier weather of this time of the year rolls around, it only makes depression worse for many people. No more sunshiny days or breathing in the fresh air of summer. The cold, blistery weather, not to mention all the snow, makes many people feel like sitting inside all day and not doing much of anything. Except eating, of course! Over-eating is almost always a result of sitting around for too long. We get bored, so we eat. We watch TV, so we think we have to eat. We feel sad or stressed, so we eat. It is a vicious cycle.
The 20% of people who do receive treatment for their depression usually turn to an anti-depressant medication or cognitive behavioral therapy. But what if there was something else you could try? Something that could not only help with your depression, but also with your overall health.
The answer is simple- you guessed it: Exercise! There have been multiple studies done that have proven how much exercise can help counter depression. In one such study conducted in 1997, Steptoe reported that exercise correlated with lower depression rates in 16,483 undergraduates! A researcher by the name of Farmer studied 1,900 subjects over an 8-year period and discovered that regular exercise definitely reduced the risk to develop depression. The last study I want to present I found most interesting. Patients who had previously been diagnosed with depression were put through a 16-week group exercise training program, and compared to patients who were using an antidepressant. Exercise was found to be just as effective as the antidepressant. What’s remarkable is that the 10-month relapse rate was incredibly lower in the exercise group (8%) than in the group who took the anti-depressants (38%). So even though the subjects might not have immediately seen the effects of exercise, the long-term results were phenomenal. This just goes to show that patience is key when it comes to exercise. You cannot expect to work hard for one month and suddenly achieve all the results that you desire. Health is a process; it is a lifestyle.
So this winter, if you find yourself feeling depressed, unenergetic, or unmotivated about life, commit to trying exercise! It doesn’t have to be every day. Start with a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goal. Maybe that means 30 minutes 3 days a week for you. Whatever goal you set, I believe you will be amazed at how you feel; not just physically, but emotionally and mentally as well.