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Exercise and Depression: Why?

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Exercise and depression can go hand in hand if you allow the willingness and dedication to yourself for this method of relief. There are many different medical reasons such as genetics, medical issues, stress and even medications for the cause of the depression, just to name a few reasons. Depression is a very common and a very serious mental illness that affects your feelings, the way you think and even your actions. Over 350 million people are affected by depression. There are estimations that 17% of Americans will suffer at least one major depressive episode in their lifetime.

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There has been concluded correlation between the interrelationships between mental and physical health. For example, cardiovascular disease can lead to depression, but depression itself can lead to cardiovascular disease. So, it is of importance to try and take care of yourself, inside and out.

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Exercise is shown to reduce depression, downed moods and even anxiety. By exercising, not only are you helping your depression, but you can also see improvements in your cognitive function and your self-esteem.

I myself suffer from depression and anxiety. I have even been clinically diagnosed with PTSD. The reason this is important to tell you is because I don’t use prescription medications to treat these illnesses. I use a number of different things to help me cope with and manage my own depression. I am not saying that the ways that I use will work on you. But, if you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for a way to relieve the pressure. Some of the things that I do to help me manage my depression and anxiety is music, painting, writing, cooking, and crafts with my children.  I also use exercise, which I myself, find the most impactful.

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Besides how exercise makes me feel, there are actual studies on the alleviation of some of the symptoms. These symptoms can be reduced by doing at least 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. You should also be doing at least 2 days of strength training.

Harvard has conducted several studies that all conclude that mood improvement is common among those suffering from mild to moderate depression.  The World Health Organization says that the elderly can even benefit from exercise programs.

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The reason that I believe exercise helps me so much is because it adds structure and purpose to my day. The thing is, most of the time my depression and anxiety has me feeling rushed and scattered almost. But when I am exercising, I know that I must slow down and focus on the task at hand. It allows me breathing room, no matter how vigorous my workout is. It allows my mind to relax, shut down, focus and just let go of the things that I typically hold on to so tightly.

I have found that I love group classes, aerobic style and fast paced cardio classes, not the normal cardio treadmill run. The added benefit is that moderate aerobic fitness has short- and long-term psychological benefits. Doing 30 minutes of moderate or even vigorous aerobic activity is an absolute great time for me and a necessity.

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Exercising for 150 minutes per week can trigger changes in your brain chemistry like endorphin release. Endorphins are neuromodulatory chemicals that modify the actions of nerve cell response to stress and pain, but also alleviates depression and anxiety.

Exercise and depression have a third wheel though, that’s nutrition. Food nutrients can cause depression all by itself. This is the part where you need some pretty good will power and self-control sometimes. Sometimes it’s hard to say no to something that you want so badly.

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Stressful life, medications, medical issues and even just a plain out bad day can send you to a drive-thru with little to no care about what you’re about to do to yourself. Mainly because it’s so hard to tell yourself no. These same stressful life events, medications, medical issues and bad days are the same things that are helping to trigger your depression. Endorphin counts in the circulation in your body depend on the nutrition and physical activity you are providing.

These things are important to manage, life itself is hard to manage. If we have to go out, make ourselves uncomfortable to help gain a little bit of normalcy, it might be worth it. I use the time that I am exercising to focus, I finally get to focus on me. It’s like my release. I am not saying that it doesn’t all come back to me, but I am saying that it’s quite in my head and heart while I am exercising…for the most part.

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I hope this article helps motivate you into some exercise. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy, but just something that allows you to have time for you. Not only does it help you physically, but mentally as well. A good well-rounded health is the target for all of us. I hope you stay safe, healthy and happy.


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