Exercise is an effective but underused way to fight depression. Do you know why it works? When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These chemicals are used by your body to reduce pain. It works much like morphine. Endorphins also act as a natural sedative without leading to addiction or dependence. You could say that exercise is one good drug with no bad trips! After exercising, it’s the endorphins that leave you with that euphoric feeling sometimes described as “runners high”. It makes you feel like everything is right with the world.
If your are suffering from depression, here’s some other things exercise can do for you:
- Improves the quality of your sleep
- Increases energy levels
- Provides a distraction from negative thoughts
- Reduces immune system chemicals that can increase depression
- If you are exercising with a group it can provide strong social support
Here’s even better news, any type of exercise can help. So pick an activity you like and shoot for at least 30 minutes three times per week.
I suffered from depression when I started my first teaching job. Any fellow teachers out there know how overwhelming that first year can be. I recovered with therapy, antidepressants and exercise. I don’t need the therapy or antidepressants anymore, but exercise is my daily medicine and believe me, I won’t skip it. It’s my favorite drug!
Check the workouts page for some programs that can get you on the road to feeling better and add exercise to your other methods of relieving depression.
In your quest to find ways to build your self confidence have you ever thought about starting a strength training program? I know they may seem worlds apart when you first think about it, but consider these connections:
- According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise (strength training qualifies) increases endorphin levels in your brain. That’s the “reward chemical” your body gives itself when you do something to keep the species going. In caveman times, you got rewarded when you ran around chasing down your dinner. You still got that reward when you went to work and did physical. Now we don’t move around so much to earn our keep. You have to get your reward chemicals through exercise. You know how relaxed and calm you feel after a workout? Endorphins. Feeling good and at peace with yourself on a regular basis will increase your self confidence.
- Strength training improves your overall appearance. If you replace five lbs. of fat with five lbs. of muscle, you will be leaner and more fit. A better overall appearance improves your self esteem. Did you know you lose 1/2 pound of muscle every year after age 30?
- If you physically feel stronger, you feel more self-sufficient. If you don’t have to depend on others to do physical tasks for you, you will gain confidence.
- Strength training increases your metabolism. Muscles require more energy to sustain themselves, even while you are sleeping. Your energy level increases. More energy makes you feel better about yourself, which increases your self confidence.
- Physical strength lowers your chance of injury. If you are healthy and injury free, you are more self sufficient. Don’t we all feel more self confident when we can live more independantly?
- My two favorite strength training programs are P90X and ChaLean Extreme. Have you tried any others? If you are feeling a lack of self confidence, try a strength training program. You most definitely will notice a difference!