Fighting Depression With Exercise

6 March, 2020

It is one of those subjects that is hard to talk about and most people try to avoid. But the truth about anxiety and depression is that those same people that have a hard time talking about it, are likely among the 40 million adults (or 18 percent of the population) that suffer from one of these disorders. Specifically, this time of year almost half a million Americans suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a seasonal depression that takes place when the days get shorter and the temperatures get colder. 

Let’s face it; it is hard enough to get to the gym when you have all your bearings and are cruising through everyday life, but when you are dealing with anxiety or depression, the gym is the last place you may want to show your face. 

Doctors and staff at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota have come up with several ways to combat the rigors of both anxiety and depression and getting to the gym is one of those. Here are some of the direct benefits of exercise:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, & endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects on the brain & body

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. 
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. 

The article goes on to suggest that sometimes the answer is as simple as getting out and walking. Simple physical activity, as opposed to what we would deem “exercise” at the gym, is just as beneficial to your overall well being. The key is to start simple. Walk a few laps on the track, swim a few laps in the pool or try a beginners yoga class. Here at the RAC, we have the RAC Zone with a variety of equipment to utilize but in a much more relaxed and quiet environment. Set attainable goals from the start and build from there. 

It doesn’t just stop when you leave the gym. There are also studies that suggest the food and drinks we put into our bodies can either help or hinder the effects of mental disorders like depression.

One of my favorite articles regarding nutrition as it relates to depression is found on A simple and easy to read list of foods that can help fight depression especially during the holiday season. You may be surprised to learn that turkey is a great addition to your diet because the high levels of tryptophan stimulate serotonin production.

Here at Raintree Athletic Club, there are several good contacts that can help you along, especially if you are new to the gym and still a little hesitant. Don’t hesitate to to ask any one of the talented trainers for suggestions, visit with Health Coach Sheri Engstrom-Rickard’s with Beautifully Designed Wellness or introduce yourself to Fitness Nutrition Specialist Tamra Engle with Fueling You

By: Jon Yunt