Over the past two years I’ve become somewhat of a fitness enthusiast. While exercise, combined with a healthy diet, has helped me lose over 100 pounds (see my profile at Weight Watchers), the greatest benefit has been an improved sense of well-being.
While SSRI’s (often combined with psychotherapy) are often the first line of defense in the treatment of depression, exercise can also be effective for mild to moderate depression – especially in combination with the former. Exercise may even play a vital role in prevention the disease. For those with a personal or family history of depression, this ought to make you sit up and take notice.
Experts have known for many years that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, those feel-good chemicals thought to produce the “runner’s high.” Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.
How often or intensely you need to exercise to reap the benefits is not clear, but for general health, most experts advise getting thirty minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Think brisk walking. (Remember to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program!)
Personally, I prefer more vigorous exercise, especially on those days when life presents challenges. A good workout clears my head and I’m better able to relax afterward. When I’m having a tough day, I can’t wait to get to the gym or head out for a run.
The benefits of exercise are endless. I think I’m just “better” as a whole. Better able to handle stress, better able to accomplish tasks, better and more attentive to my family.
Check out this illustration of your body on exercise at Bright Side.