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Summer is over… days are shorter… it gets dark earlier… you spend less time outside, thanks to the cold…
It all adds up to a recipe for worsening depression.
If this describes what you’ve been feeling, especially lately, you’re not alone.
Up to 3 percent of the population in the U.S. may suffer from winter depression, which experts term seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. And, about 7 percent of Americans who suffer depression year-round find that their symptoms get worse in winter. Countless others are affected by a less severe form of depression, known as the “winter blues.
Though even short-term depression can have consequences to both your health and the quality of your life, don’t head off to the doctor for a prescription of anti-depressants just yet. There’s another way to beat your depression and boost your mood without taking those pills that can cause nausea, weight gain, blurred vision and even sexual dysfunction…
And, it’s as simple as moving.
That’s right – a new study has given us even more proof that the best prescription for your depression could just be regular exercise.
Here’s what they found…
Activity leads to happiness
Michigan State University and University of Michigan researchers asked 295 patients receiving treatment at a mental health clinic whether they wanted to be more physically active and if exercise helped improve their mood and anxiety. They also asked if patients wanted their therapist to help them become more active.
Eighty-five percent said they wanted to exercise more and over 80 percent believed exercise helped improve their moods and anxiety much of the time.
These results build on the findings of 25 other studies that show that regular exercise is key to overcoming and preventing depression.
However, according to the researchers, “Physical activity has been shown to be effective in alleviating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. Current physical activity guidelines advise at least 30 minutes, five days a week to promote mental and physical health, yet many of those surveyed weren’t meeting these recommendations.”
But, the question is if exercise could provide such big benefits, with 80 percent saying regular exercise exerted a positive impact on their mood, why weren’t they exercising?
More than half of the participants said their mood limited their ability to exercise. In other words, they were too depressed to do the one thing that could actually help them with their depression.
The challenge of getting started
Sound like a difficult cycle to break? Well, it can be…
After all, depression manifests physically by causing disturbed sleep, reduced energy, appetite changes, body aches and increased pain perception — all of which can result in less motivation to exercise.
That’s why experts say it’s best to start small.
Start with just five minutes a day of any activity you enjoy, from walking or cycling to tennis, swimming or even gardening. Just get moving. Soon, you will start to feel better and five minutes will become 10 and 10 will become 20 and so on.
But remember, overcoming your depression through regular exercise is a long-term treatment, not a one-time fix. So, pick an activity you enjoy and are likely to keep doing.
Don’t let the short winter days leave you blue. Instead, commit to regular exercise, start small and get moving to boost your mood and beat your depression.
- Fending Off Depression Symptoms in Winter — WebMD
- Coping With Side Effects of Depression Treatment — WebMD
- 25 Studies Confirm: Exercise Prevents Depression — Psychology Today
- Should exercise be what the doctor orders for depression? — Michigan State University
- Exercise is an all-natural treatment to fight depression — Harvard Health Online