Updated: Jun 23, 2019
We have all heard that when we feel down, or anxious, we should really exercise. It all sounds well and good when we're not in that down or anxious mood, but when we are struck down in a major depressive episode, it ain't that easy.
The research is clear: Exercise can be as effective as drugs to treat depression, in some cases. Exercise starts a biological cascade of events that results in many health benefits. For example, high intensity exercise releases endorphins and proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. This change can help improve brain function, which can make you feel better. "In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain - the region that helps regulate mood - is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression," explains Dr Michael Craig Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
However, when we are experiencing that dip in mood, the last thing that usually comes to mind is exercise. It is here that you need to trick your mind.
When you feel down, or super anxious, bypass your thoughts by just simply moving. Don't think about it, just start. Here's a few ways you can start to do this:
1. Do 20 squats, lunge, pushups on the spot. Continue for 3 minutes.
2. Get outside in the sunshine and simply walk a lap of your block.
3. 20 seconds jog on the spot, followed by 20 seconds squats, followed by 20 seconds of push ups. Repeat this 3 times.
These are 3 simple ways you can get the blood flowing when you feel depressed or anxious. Give it 3 minutes minimum, and see if you feel any better. Most of the time you will - and bonus points if you can do these movements outside, in the sunshine.
There are so many times I have felt that depressed that I've gone to bed and slept for hours upon hours and not paid one second of attention to exercise. Funny, considering I have a background in personal training, right?! But the more I realised the connection between movement and mood, the more I paid particular attention to movement once I felt down, and the better I felt. It's an immediate change.
Have you had an experience with mood and movement? I would love to hear! Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.