Depression is a mental disorder which is, unfortunately, affecting 5% of the adult population across the globe. According to the World Health Organization, around 280 million people are suffering from depression worldwide.
The numbers are overwhelming, but there is hope. There are ways to overcome depression without resorting to medication. Doing things you enjoy, spending time with your loved ones, listening to music, trying something new, setting goals and challenging yourself, eating right and avoiding alcohol. These can all help you successfully combat depression.
In addition, there’s something else you can do. You can exercise to reduce depression. It’s been scientifically proven that exercise in general can bring improvements in brain function, change your mood for the better and become an efficient natural antidepressant. Getting out of bed and moving your body may not seem like a priority when you’re feeling down, but it can truly be one of the best treatments for depression.
Here is a list of activities you can try in order to improve your mental wellbeing:
Walking is one of the best exercises you can do. Here’s why: it’s accessible to almost anyone, it’s low-impact, it doesn’t require special physical abilities or equipment and can be done both inside and outside. Of course, it’s essential to mention the multitude of health benefits of walking. This activity can help you better your health in so many ways, including alleviate symptoms of depression.
Going for a stroll can help you improve your mood, and there is medical evidence to support this claim. According to research, walking can be efficiently used as treatment for patients suffering from mild depression in particular. A 2015 study concluded that an increase in physical activity and walking sessions can indeed lead to a better quality of life for women with depressive symptoms.
One useful thing you can do is to start tracking your walks. You don’t need to purchase a fitness gadget, just download a pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker and you’re good to go. This way you’ll instantly receive relevant fitness data, such as the steps taken, calories burned, distance covered or time spent active. At the same time, you’ll be able to set attainable goals and adjust them according to your needs. Setting goals and achieving them will help you regain self-trust and feel better.
Hiking in Nature
Spending more time in nature and less in front of our omnipresent screens and monitors should be a common aspiration for all of us. Going outside, in a green environment, can be beneficial to our health in multiple ways. Going for a hike can help you boost your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones and tone several muscle groups. But at the same time it can be truly healing for the mind and soul.
Hiking in nature has proven to be an effective way to relieve depression. According to scientists from Stanford University, going for a 90-minute walk in a natural area has the power to reduce the risk of depression. Researchers from the University of Essex came to the conclusion that walking in a green environment can lead to a substantial decrease in levels of depression, anxiety and stress. Concretely, spending time in the middle of nature reduced the depression scores in approximately 70% of study participants.
High-intensity interval training may be one of the most efficient workouts you can get. Due to its nature (it combines short periods of intense activity with low-intensity recovery breaks), it can generate a series of health benefits in a short timespan. HIIT exercises are great for burning a considerable amount of calories really fast, for losing weight, building muscle mass or reducing blood sugar levels.
This type of workout is not limited to physical benefits. Concomitantly, HIIT can have a positive influence on your mental health. A recent study analyzed the effects of high-intensity interval training and moderate-intensity training on depression, anxiety and stress during the confinement caused by COVID-19. The results showed that both types of training led to mental health improvements, but HIIT workouts turned out to be more beneficial when it came to reducing depression.
We’ve seen that aerobic exercise can truly improve our mood. But this isn’t the only form of exercise that can lift our spirits. We need to also add strength training to the list. Lifting weights isn’t all about packing on muscle mass and becoming bigger and stronger. In addition, resistance training can help us protect our bone health, keep our body fat under control, reduce the risk of heart disease and improve our mobility.
Lifting weights can also turn out to be an efficient exercise to fight depression. A meta-analysis of 33 randomized clinical trials, involving almost 1.900 participants, confirmed the theory. According to the study’s authors, engaging in resistance training for two days a week had an important effect on patients suffering from mild and moderate depression. Researchers discovered a considerable decrease in depressive symptoms, in comparison to those who did not work out at all.
If you’re looking to try something new, you might want to take into consideration Tai Chi. This is a mind-body exercise designed to combine slow and gentle movements with deep breathing techniques. Since it involves both the body and the mind, the activity comes with physical and emotional benefits. Physically, you should expect improvements in aerobic capacity, flexibility and balance, as well as an increase in energy and stamina.
But Tai Chi is also about emotional wellbeing. This form of exercise can help you alleviate stress, anxiety and depression. Recent findings suggest that Tai Chi can modulate the brain regions linked to depression, regulate emotion and ease the symptoms of mood disorders. According to a different study, this type of workout can reduce depression and anxiety in patients with cardiovascular disease. In addition, practicing Tai Chi may help you improve your quality of sleep and your overall wellbeing.
Fighting depression is not easy. In fact, it can be one of the most challenging processes. But fortunately there are solutions to help you ease the symptoms. Exercise, through its many forms, can be one of the most efficient natural antidepressants you can resort to. Engaging in constant exercise can help you regulate your mood and improve your emotional wellbeing over time.