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5 Key Benefits of Exercise on Depression Symptoms

Jul 23, 2021

Regardless of how a person’s depression is caused, they can ease some of their depression symptoms with exercise. How are there benefits of exercise on depression, though, if it’s an illness that exists in the mind?

For one, depression exists in both the body and mind. Secondly, exercise is a powerful way to impact the chemicals and hormones in our minds and bodies to produce a healthier version of ourselves. 

We’re going to take a look at how exercise can benefit mental health, giving you some insight into what you can do to try and ease some of your symptoms of depression. 

1. Endorphin Production

We’ll start by looking at the nuts and bolts of the benefits of exercise on depression, then explore some of the exercises to use and timeframes to expect to see results. 

It’s impressive how many health benefits exercise provides. There are unique benefits to different activities, but they all do a few key things. 

An intense workout will prompt your body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are our bodies’ natural pain-relievers and pleasure-inducers. The name endorphin means “morphine in the body.”

This neurochemical operates on the opioid receptors, leading to pleasure and the relief of pain. Most notably, people tell of a feeling of happiness or a “runner’s high” when they finish an intense workout. 

So, when it comes to depression symptoms, exercise provides a scarce resource. The illness makes you lethargic, sad, despondent, and unmotivated in many cases. If you can flip the switch and produce endorphins, you’ll start to feel those symptoms fade a little bit. 

2. Neurotrophic Benefits

There’s a trend in those with depression to have a smaller hippocampus. The hippocampus is situated deep within the cerebral cortex and plays an important role in processing memory, emotions, learning, and self-perpetuation (motivation).

You might notice that all of the hippocampus areas play a part in are impacted by depression. The regulation of emotion, for one, is definitely impacted by depression. 

When an area of the brain has lost mass or lacks size, a person needs some way to spur cell growth. Factors that contribute to cell production are called neurotrophic. 

Exercise prompts and supports cell growth in the hippocampus, leading to stronger and more numerous nerve cell connections. This recovery of the hippocampus could be a massive benefit to anyone with depression

3. Momentary Relief

Some of the most prominent symptoms of depression are things that exercise fights naturally. Things like trouble sleeping, motivation, low energy, physical aches, and the amplified perception of pain are all helped by exercise. 

Sure, it takes a bit of willpower to break the cycle and get out to exercise. You might be stuck in a difficult situation, but you should notice effects even the first time you exercise. 

Your body will be tired, so you’ll have an easier time sleeping. The endorphins you feel will help with your physical pain. Further, exercise gradually lessens fatigue. 

That means you’ll build up your ability to use energy and make it through your day. Over time, the well of lethargy, frustration, and hindrances will get chipped away at by your rising energy level, thus providing some benefits of exercise on depression.

4. Long-Term Benefits

If you can keep working out and build a habit, you will see benefits that last. Many of the personal measures we take to combat depression are temporary. 

We might feel better for a while, even after a good counseling session, but those effects tend to go away in the face of major depression. Alternatively, exercise has a way of resetting your levels of neurochemicals and producing a healthy internal environment.

The trick to getting yourself into the positive habit of exercise is finding ways to enjoy it. You’re not going to work your way out of depression if you hate exercising. 

You’ll come back repeatedly if you find ways to exercise that don’t feel like difficult tasks. Finding a sport that you enjoy is one great way to get yourself moving and enjoy it. 

Walks or jogs through beautiful natural areas are another way to combat depression. In that case, you get the added benefit of contact with nature, which can also add benefits of exercise on depression. 

5. Indication to Yourself

One aspect of exercise that’s important to recovery is its anti-defeated nature. You’re not going to exercise if you’ve given up and are letting the depression take over. 

Instead, the fact that you’re exercising is an indication to yourself that you haven’t given up. You’re working to defeat depression and become a happier person. 

This might seem like a trivial pat on the back, but it’s imperative. Self-esteem is a big factor in depression, and anything you can do to improve yours will add to the benefits of exercise on depression. A reminder that you’re working hard and doing what you can to pull yourself out of depression can do a lot for you. 

Types of Exercise to Consider

Any exercise you want to start doing is a step in the right direction. That said, a combination of cardio and strength training (weight lifting) can be a great place to start. These will both provide, somewhat immediate, benefits of exercise on depression 

In many ways, the specific cardio or strength exercises that you don’t matter, so long as you’re doing them for a decent amount of time. You’re trying to kick your body into the mode where it’s producing those endorphins, stimulating cell growth, and providing you with more energy. 

Almost any exercise will do that for you if you do it well. Don’t overwhelm yourself with exercise options, though. It’s easy to hit the gym, feel defeated, and wind up going back home. 

So, start small and find what makes you feel better. There’s no need to do all of the other, more specific exercises unless you want to. 

Want to Learn More About Depression Symptoms?

Finding ways to fight depression symptoms can be very challenging. Now you know the benefits of exercise on depression. There are also many ways for you to find relief, though, and we’re here to provide you with the self-care information that you need. Explore our site for more ideas on healthy habits, healthy living, emotional well-being, and more.

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