How Does Exercise Help Depression?

Believe it or not, exercise is actually one of the most recommended ways to fight depression.

Although for severe cases of depression, exercise isn’t enough to completely manage it, it can still be extremely helpful.

According to Dr. Craig Miller, a professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, for more mild cases of depression, exercise can be as helpful as antidepressants.

But, this begs the question of why exactly?

Depression is a mental illness; so why does exercise, which is meant to help you physically, seem to help with depression?

Well, scientists have discovered a couple of reasons why exercise is helpful for fighting off depression.

In this article, we will go over those various reasons and explain them in a bit of detail.

Exercise triggers the release of feel-good endorphins

Various kinds of exercise, especially high-intensity exercise, trigger the release of endorphins into your brain.

Endorphins are chemicals that essentially make you feel good. It’s a hard feeling to describe, but for many, the feeling is downright addictive.

When the endorphins are released, you feel energized, confident, and happy. Many of you have no doubt heard of the concept of a “runner’s high” before.

Well, there is a reason they use the term “high” to describe it.

The flood of endorphins that runners experience is unlike anything else and many do actually get addicted to the feeling.

Long-term exercise can actually heal and improve your brain

Endorphins can help with depression, but the feelings caused by endorphins do wear off eventually; so, they represent more of a short-term aid for depression.

However, exercise does have long-term, positive effects that can help with depression.

Scientists have found that regular exercise done over a long period of time (months, years, etc.) triggers the release of “neurotrophic features.”

These neurotrophic features actually make your brain healthier and help fight against a variety of mental illnesses, including depression.

It’s a distraction

Depending on the type of exercise you do, it can be a very effective distraction.

Things like stress, anxiety, and depression will always be there, but it’s helpful to have something to distract yourself during particularly rough periods.

Exercise, especially things like weightlifting, aerobics, yoga, and other exercises that are intricate and require focus are great ways to distract yourself during rough periods.

These are three, scientifically backed ways that exercise can help you and others fight back against depression. It may not be a cure in and of itself, but it’s certainly very helpful.

How Does Exercise Affect Your Mental Health?

We hear about the benefits of exercise all the time, whether it’s a new workout programme being rolled out at the local gym, or our parents telling us we need to exercise more for the sake of our health.

However, apart from the physical benefits of toning up, losing weight and improving your heart health and various other organs, there are also psychological benefits that make exercise all the more worthwhile.

Reduce stress levels

It’s true that exercise can help you to become more stressed.

This is partly due to the fact that you feel like you’ve achieved something during the day and you feel like you’re being kind to your body.

When you exercise, your body releases more norepinephrine, a hormone which combats stress and helps you deal with stress and tension in the future too.

Feel happier

Working out for just half an hour a day can help you to feel much happier than you currently do.

Exercise releases endorphins which is the same hormone released when you hug the people you love or experience something that makes you very happy.

It’s scientifically proven that exercise improves the way you feel.

Get more creative

You might be surprised to hear that exercise can boost your creativity levels for around 2-3 hours after you’ve finished exercising.

If you’re desperate for some inspiration, whether it’s for a poem, an invention, a painting or a song, you might find that hitting the gym will do just the trick!

Improve self-confidence

Have you ever spoken to somebody who said that they felt worse about themselves after regular exercise sessions?

Working out on a regular basis will help you to feel better about yourself, not only because you’ll be improving your physical condition but you’ll also be helping your mental health too.

Sleep better

With better sleep, so many things in your life will start to improve. You’ll feel more focused and more concentrated and able to tackle anything that comes your way.

However, if you’re struggling to get to sleep, this could become a massive problem.

There are ways to combat sleeping issues, and the first thing you should try is regular exercise.

Don’t worry if you’re not doing an intense workout at the start – you can always build this up and even just a little bit at the start will help you to snooze easier and better.

How Exercise Can Help You Sleep Better

Are you tired of waking up every morning exhausted because you didn’t get anything close to a decent night’s sleep?

Are you afraid of taking sleeping pills or other risky medications to try and get a good night’s sleep? If so, there is a potential solution to your problem, exercise.

That’s right, exercising regularly can not only help you get to sleep easier, but it can also improve the quality of sleep that you get.

In this article, we are going to explore the connection between exercise and improved sleep quality.

Exercise improves your sleep quality

In order to feel truly rested, you have to get a certain amount of hours of really good quality sleep.

More specifically, you have to get at least a few hours of what is known as “deep sleep.”

Deep sleep is the stage of sleep that comes after REM sleep (which is when you do the majority of your dreaming).

It is the stage where your body does the bulk of its resting and recovering.

Study after study has shown that exercise increases the amount of time spent in this deep sleep stage, which in turn results in you feeling more rested the next day.

Exercise can increase the amount of sleep you get

Another benefit of exercise is that it can increase the amount of sleep you get.

The reasoning behind it is fairly straightforward. Exercise expends excess energy, enabling you to get to sleep faster.

Even though a lot of people feel exhausted when they come home after work, they still actually have a lot of pent-up energy in their body.

Exercising helps burn off that last bit of energy that can make going to bed on time a hassle.

When to exercise

Knowing when to exercise is important if you want to improve your sleep quality.

See, if you exercise too close to your bedtime, you will end up making it even harder to go to sleep. This is because your body produces adrenaline when you exercise.

So, if you exercise then hop into bed, you are still going to have all that adrenaline running through your body.

Ideally, you want to exercise roughly 2-3 hours before your desired bedtime.

Likewise, don’t make your exercise too rigorous.

Rigorous exercise also produces a lot of adrenaline. Light cardio is the best exercise to do if you want to fall asleep easier.

Save the weightlifting and sprinting for another time.