Engaging in any form of physical activity is one of the most effective and affordable ways to improve your well-being. Being physically active is a great way to improve your mood, increase your energy levels, and improve your sleep.
For mild to moderate cases of depression, exercise alone may be just as effective as antidepressant medications. In these cases, exercise alone may be enough to resolve your depressive symptoms.
For severe or treatment-resistant depression, exercise alone may not cure your depression, but exercise can still play a significant role in improving your overall mood and response to medication.
Engaging in regular exercise a few days a week can help improve the efficacy of other, more traditional depression treatment options, including antidepressants and therapy. You may begin to feel the benefits of exercise on your mood within just a few weeks of starting an exercise plan.
However, the most significant and long-lasting benefits of exercise appear in the long run. After you have made regular exercise a part of your weekly routine, your mental and physical health on many levels is also likely to improve.
A 2020 study in BMC Medicine found that people with low muscular and aerobic fitness levels are nearly twice as likely to experience depression. Researchers believe fitness could be a modifiable risk factor for mental health disorders like depression.
According to the CDC, adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activities. 150 minutes of physical activity breaks down to just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
Physical activity can improve your psychological well-being in many different ways:
- Promotes social interaction: Joining a group exercise class, or playing recreational sports with others, provides you with a chance for exercise and social interactions, which can reduce feelings of isolation.
- Helps you focus on the present moment: Engaging in regular exercise can also quiet your mind as you focus on what your body is doing, helping to interrupt negative thought cycles, worries, and depressive thoughts.
- Releases feel-good chemicals: When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, all neurotransmitters that give your mood a natural boost.
- Healthy coping mechanism: Exercise can be a healthy way of dealing with both emotional pain and depressive symptoms.
- Improves your health: Engaging in regular exercise can improve your physical health, lower your risk of developing many different diseases, and can improve disease management as well.
- Increased confidence: Being able to successfully engage in physical activities can also improve your confidence.
There are many different ways to engage in physical activity and exercise, all of which can help improve your physical and mental health.