Reciprocal Relationship between Depression and Exercise

May 14, 2024 Lifestyle Diseases 17 Views

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Reciprocal Relationship between Depression and Exercise

There is a reciprocal relationship between the symptoms of depression and exercise, which means that more exercise leads to fewer depression symptoms, and a current depression condition leads to a reduction in future physical activities and exercise.

Depression is a type of mental illness that affects millions of individuals worldwide. The condition is characterized by feelings of hopelessness, sadness, and a lack of interest in activities that you would typically enjoy. Depression can be treated in several ways, like medicines and therapy, but exercise has emerged as an effective and natural way to improve one’s mood and decrease the symptoms of depression.

Conversely, if you are a physically active person and develop a mental health issue like depression, you may lose your drive to exercise regularly and stay physically fit.

  • How does depression and exercise go hand in hand ?
  • Why is it hard for people having depression to exercise?
  • How much exercise is recommended for good physical and mental health?
  • How to get started with a regular exercise plan to manage depression?

How does regular exercise help in treating depression symptoms?

Exercise can help in reducing the symptoms associated with depression, thus depression and exercise can go hand in hand, in the following ways:

  • Release of endorphins: Endorphins are chemicals in the brain that can help in improving mood and reducing pain. 
  • Reduces inflammation: Exercise can help in reducing inflammation in the body, which is linked to conditions like depression. Although inflammation is a type of natural response to an infection or injury, chronic or long-term inflammation could cause many different health problems, like depression.
  • Improves sleep: Regular exercise can help in improving the quality and quantity of sleep, which is important for maintaining good mental health. Lack of sleep is associated with mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
  • Improves self-confidence: Exercise can increase the self-confidence of an individual. Setting and achieving fitness goals can help one feel a sense of accomplishment that can be carried over to the other areas of life and reduce the possibility of developing mental health issues.
  • Social support: Joining a team sport or fitness class can allow you to meet new people and make new friends, which can be useful for people suffering from depression who may be feeling alone or isolated.
  • Distracts from negative thoughts: Exercise can distract a person from depressive feelings or thoughts. Physical activity can be a time to engage your body and calm your mind at the same time.
  • Reduces stress: Regular exercise can help in reducing stress hormones such as cortisol. This can help in managing emotional and mental stress on a daily basis and help in coping easily with depression symptoms.
  • Stimulation of nerve cell growth: Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain and supports neuroplasticity. This allows the brain cells to grow and create new connections. This explains why regular physical activity can help the growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, which is a region of the brain that helps in memory and mood regulation and is typically smaller in size in people having depression. ( Know more about- What is Psychotherapy? )

Why is it hard for people having depression to exercise?

Some of the important reasons why individuals having depression find it difficult to exercise include the following:

  • Low dopamine levels: Depressed people have low dopamine levels, which is a neurotransmitter that makes a person feel enthusiastic and excited. Reduced dopamine levels make one feel fatigued and lethargic. The brain chemistry tells a person not to get up and move.
  • Leaden paralysis: Atypical depression, which is a type of depression commonly seen in women and people with bipolar depression, includes symptoms like leaden paralysis. This symptom is associated with the heaviness of limbs and the inability of the limbs to move.
  • Anxiousness about how others will judge you: People with depression could also have anxiety, which may include social anxiety. Such people are constantly worried about being judged by people when they work out or go to a gym. 

Also, many people with depression use food as a self-soothing method, which results in weight gain. An increase in weight coupled with a lack of exercise makes depressed people even more reluctant to work out regularly. Thus depression and exercise must go hand in hand. 

  • Lack of absence of social support: Many depressed people tend to lose out on friends and family as they are unable to keep up with their conversations or interact with them energetically and cheerfully. This means that such people may have to hit the gym or do regular physical activity all alone. With no familiar company, the person is less likely to feel motivated to perform a regular physical activity.
  • No motivation to start a new routine: Exercise can show its benefits only when done regularly. Lack of motivation in depressed people makes it difficult for them to start a new exercise routine.
  • Negative self-talk: Depressed people often undergo feelings of negative or mean self-talk in their heads. They often think of themselves as failures who cannot do anything right. This mindset prevents them from feeling positive about exercising.

How much exercise is recommended for good physical and mental health?

It is recommended to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity workout or 75 minutes of high-intensity workout every week to maintain good physical and mental health.

Regular form of exercise can help make a big difference in improving the symptoms of depression. Thus make depression and exercise go hand in hand. 

How to get started with a regular exercise plan to manage depression?

Building a regular exercise routine can help in the management of depression. 

Some tips to help you get started with depression and exercise are:

  • Make an exercise routine.
  • Set realistic and short-term goals.
  • Start with shorter workouts and gradually increase the duration and intensity of exercise.
  • Select a physical activity that you enjoy doing.
  • Try different types of exercises.
  • Take adequate rest in between exercises.
  • Take the help of your psychologist or doctor.
  • Try not to think about exercise as a chore, instead try to enjoy it.
  • Celebrate even the smallest fitness goals that you achieve and forgive yourself for any setbacks.

We hope that we were able to answer your question about the reciprocal relationship between depression and exercise through this article.

If you want more information about the reciprocal relationship between depression and exercise, you can contact a good psychologist.

We only aim to give you information through the article and do not recommend any medication or treatment in any way. Only a qualified doctor can give you good advice because no one else is better than them. Get best treatments done at Manipal Hospital Whitefield


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