The best treatment for depression is different for everyone. What’s best for you can only be determined with the help of a mental health professional like our highly experienced clinicians at BOLD Health. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for depression. There is no magic formula that works for everyone. The combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes that help you overcome depression symptoms is unique to you.
However, one thing has been proven to help manage depression symptoms for everyone outside of professional treatment. And that’s exercise. We’re not saying that exercise is going to cure your depression. It’s not. But it can reduce or even prevent symptoms of depression.
The good news is that you don’t have to commit to being a marathon runner or champion weight lifter for exercise to help depression. Of course, if you want to do that, go for it. But for the rest of us, let’s look at some of the best options for exercise to help depression.
How Exercise Helps Ease Depression Symptoms
There have been several studies done on the benefits of exercise for depression. One of the most recent meta-analyses completed on the subject, done in 2021, revealed a significant reduction in depression symptoms and improved overall quality of life through regular exercise. According to this particular study, the more exercise you get, the better. But any is better than none!
Again, you don’t need to exercise incessantly. Just making some form of enjoyable exercise a part of your routine can have significant benefits. In fact, another study revealed that engaging in any intensity of physical activity for as little as one hour per week may actually prevent up to 12% of future cases of depression.
So, how does exercise help reduce symptoms of depression? In several ways, including the following:
- Increasing feel-good hormones: There are natural chemicals in your brain called endogenous cannabinoids, endorphins, and serotonin that make you feel better. When you exercise, you increase these hormones, lifting your spirits naturally.
- Improving self-esteem: When you exercise, you are taking a proactive approach to helping you feel better. And when you do, you are likely to feel more positive about yourself and life in general.
- Reducing stress: Any exercise can help reduce stress by reducing stress hormones like cortisol. Reducing cortisol can help you better manage depression symptoms.
- Improving sleep: Changes in sleep patterns are one of the most common frustrating symptoms of depression. Exercising regularly, even if it’s simply taking the dog for a walk, can help improve your sleep quality.
- Distracting you: Another effective way exercise helps depression is by distracting you from your negative thoughts and feelings. Even if it’s only temporary, the relief you get is worth it, and it can help break the cycle of recurring negative thoughts.
- Stimulating nerve cell growth: Exercises for depression can increase the blood flow to your brain and support neuroplasticity, allowing your brain cells to grow and make new, healthier connections. Your hippocampus regulates several things, including mood regulation, and is typically smaller in those who struggle with depression. Exercise can stimulate its growth, helping you feel better.
- Connecting you with others: When you have depression, you often feel the need to isolate yourself from others. But if you include exercises in your routine that include being around others, it can help you make social connections when you need it most.
6 Exercises to Help Depression
You don’t have to include any exercise you don’t find enjoyment in in your routine. You don’t even have to spend tons of money! There are plenty of free options to choose from. However, it’s important to understand that you’ll get the most benefit from exercises for depression when you combine them with depression treatment.
Some exercises to help with depression include the following:
We did say you don’t have to run a marathon. But if you’re looking for an exercise that delivers plenty of feel-good endorphins, consider taking up running or jogging. You’ve likely heard of the “runner’s high,” and there’s a reason for it. It’s a feeling of euphoria you may experience after you run or complete an intense or lengthy workout.
- Low-impact exercises like yoga, pilates, or tai chi
You don’t have to choose high-intensity, high-impact workouts if you don’t want to. There are several benefits to practicing yoga, pilates, and tai chi, including improved balance and increased flexibility. These exercises also allow you to practice mindfulness by focusing on deep breathing.
Whether you walk with a friend or take your dog for a walk, walking is one of the most practical and available exercises for depression. It’s free, and you can do it anywhere! As an added bonus, consider going for a walk in nature or while listening to calming music, a book, or a favorite podcast.
- Get outside
Speaking of walking in the woods, a great way to boost serotonin levels is to get outside and get some movement in. You could walk, run, do yoga, strength train, or ride a bike! Any outdoor exercise boosts endorphins and makes you feel better through the increase of serotonin.
- Strength training
Whether you’re using one-pound weights or free-weight training at the gym, strength training is an excellent way to focus on the task and distract you from negative thoughts and emotions. Adding weight training to your routine can make you stronger physically and emotionally!
You may not look at gardening as exercise, but if you think about it, a lot of physical movement goes into tending your lawn or garden. Not only do you benefit from connecting with nature and breathing in fresh air, but you can also take pride in watching your plants grow and thrive.
Combine Exercise With the Best Depression Treatment in San Diego at BOLD Health
We understand starting a new exercise routine can be challenging, especially if you lack motivation due to depression. That’s why it’s vital to partner with a high-quality mental health provider for depression treatment in San Diego, like ours at BOLD Health.
Not only can we help you gain the tools and strategies you need to overcome your depression symptoms through therapy, medication management, our intensive outpatient program, or ketamine treatment, but your clinician can also help you plan and stick to a regular exercise routine.
At Bold Health, we offer top-notch depression therapy in San Diego that is individualized to your needs. We take the time to get to know all of you, not just your depression symptoms. That way, we can curate the ideal treatment plan to get you out of depression and better face it in the future if need be.
Contact us for more information about depression therapy in San Diego and our numerous treatment options. You deserve to live a life free of depression. And we’re ready to help.