How being fit helps to fight depression

Life Coaching Blog

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. This is a serious global pandemic that needs to be addressed. Researchers have found that being fit and healthy has an extremely positive correlation with helping to fight the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Here’s how.

What is depression?

According to the American Psychiatric Association ‘depression’ is defined as a disorder that negatively affects the way that you think, feel and act. People who fall victim to this disease are plagued with constant negative thoughts from all angles. For some sufferers, these negative thoughts are so significant and overwhelming in their lives that they see no hope but to commit suicide.

The treatment for depression differs from patient to patient. At the root of treatment is to replace the patient’s negative thoughts with positive ones. This can be done with medication such as SSRIs in conjunction with psychotherapy where the patient works through the negative feelings with the help of the therapist with the goal of ultimately replacing these negative thoughts with positive ones.

Alongside this treatment plan, more often than not it is advised for the patient to take part in daily physical exercise. The reason for this is two-fold:

  • When we exercise, we release feel-good hormones called endorphins. These trigger a physiological response which is similar to that which the drug morphine produces. Endorphins also have a sedative effect which is why we sleep better after having exercised. As many people who suffer from depression often have trouble sleeping exercise is a great method of helping to alleviate this.

Thus the more endorphins we release into our bodies, the more positive feelings we have. This means that it is very hard for the negative emotions to co-exist with the new-found positive thoughts.

  • Exercise also helps patients suffering from depression to take their minds off their negative state. Depressive episodes run in tightly formed circles. This means that it’s very difficult to break these and help the patient get clarity and start on the road to recovery.

Because – during exercise – you are forced to concentrate on what you’re doing otherwise you will hurt yourself, this activity helps depression sufferers to break the cycle of negative thinking and helps them to introduce new, more positive thoughts into themselves.

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Yoga: a fantastic exercise to help with depression

Yoga is classified as a ‘mind-body’ exercise. It uses a number of tools to help ground the practitioner in the here and now so that thoughts which are detrimental to the person’s well-being are not let anywhere near them.

Yogis believe that everything on Earth emits vibrations. Thus, to become in tune with these vibrations and, as a consequence, the world around you, you need to chant ohm. The practice of chanting usually happens at the beginning of each Yoga class and has the benefit of helping members of the class to rid themselves of the stressful thoughts that they’ve had during the day so that they can concentrate fully on work that the teacher has prepared.

Yoga is made up of a number of poses. In Sanskrit these are called asanas. You practise the asanas barefoot so that you can remain rooted to the earth – which is in fact what ‘asana’ actually means. This allows you to be in touch with the present and not let your mind wander off.

Your breathing helps you through when you practise the asanas. This type of breathing is different from ‘regular’ breathing as it tells you that you need to breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. However, as you exhale you need to slightly constrict the back of your throat and close your lips. This produces a sighing sound which helps to alleviate stress.

Exercise and being fit is a powerful method of helping to keep depression at bay. It should be used in conjunction with treatment plans prescribed by qualified health professional to help you get some headspace in order to deal with the disease.

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