Now that spring is here it’s time to revise or create an outdoor exercise routine. The list of the benefits of regular aerobic and strength-training exercise is too long to post here. However, relief of depression is an important one.
Depression is a common disorder that is associated with compromised quality of life, increased health care costs, and greater risk for a variety of medical conditions, particularly coronary heart disease.
Here are some tips to help you get started and maintain the benefits of regular exercise.
To use that famous NIKE slogan, “Just Do It.”
- Choose an activity that you enjoy and stick with it. The number of activities to choose from can boggle the mind. Just because you “don’t feel like it” is not a reason not to exercise. Tell yourself the truth that you’ll feel better afterwards.
- Make small changes. Start with one day per week for 20 minutes. Add more time or add another day.
- Make a plan. Don't leave it to chance. Put your exercise session on your calendar. Have plan A and plan B depending on weather or other scheduling.
- Invest in a good pair of exercise sneakers. Consult with an expert. It’s an investment that you won’t regret! Don't let sore feet provide an excuse to skip your workout.
- Timing is everything. Exercise at a time of day that is most convenient. Do not exercise on a full or empty stomach or just before you go to bed. People with depression often suffer from insomnia, and night time exercise can leave you feeling energized when you want to sleep. If possible, exercise during daylight hours to also benefit from sunlight.
- Watch out for barriers to exercise. Anticipate them and develop strategies to make exercise as easy and simple as possible. Brainstorm potential solutions to bad weather, work commitments, fatigue, and any other lame excuse your demons will present.
- Get a buddy. Some people who exercise with a partner enjoy it more and are more likely to stick with it. Also, the additional social support may provide motivation and have other beneficial effects.
- Think positively. Praise your successes. Keep a record, get a tracking device. View lapses in your exercise program as learning opportunities and don’t get discouraged if you miss a session. Succumbing to excuses for one day is not a tragedy but get out there the next day.
- Enjoy the moment. Take a minute when you are finished with an exercise session to appreciate how you feel in your body, mind and spirit. A sense of accomplishment can follow you throughout the day.
Here is a recent article from Slate which provides information on the anti-depressant effects of regular exercise. Here's a reinforcement from The Cleveland Clinic. Exercise and Happiness from The NY Times provides more information. And another one about exercise to lower blood pressure and reduce fat.