It doesn’t matter if you are a depressed teenager or an anxiety-ridden elderly patient; either way, exercise can help you fight depression without using a pharmaceutical cornucopia to treat your symptoms. Here are 4 reasons that exercise helps to keep you not just healthy, but happy:
1. Exercise Helps to Regulate Hormones
Increased use of pharmaceuticals and advancing age can lead to hormonal changes, further leading to anxiety and depression. Exercise helps to return these hormones to homeostatis. Qigong in particular has been shown to reduce depression in elderly patients. And teen patients can even reap the benefits of exercise to help keep cortisol and adrenaline levels in check while increasing seratonin, melatonin, and oxytocin.
2. Exercise Gives You more Energy
You’ve heard Newton’s first law – objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The reason we feel unmotivated when we’ve been negligent in exercising is because our respiratory and cardiovascular systems become depleted (as do all our other bodily systems) when we don’t move. Our cells don’t turn over as fast.
Toxins start to linger longer in our blood and digestive tract, and we start to feel tired and flat out cruddy. When we exercise, all our systems support this life-promoting activity by ‘turning on.’ This is part of the reason we experience an endorphin rush during and just after an exercise session. It is the body’s reward for doing something good for ourselves – and then we have the energy and motivation to do it again!
3. Exercise Builds Confidence
Who doesn’t feel better when they start to see their waistlines grow smaller, their skin begin to glow from the reduced toxicity in the body from sweating during exercise, and the general tone of their muscles improve? Exercise is a huge confidence booster. Even taking a brisk walk every day can increase your sense of accomplishment when things don’t seem to be going your way.
More vigorous exercise at least three times a week can help make your confidence soar. Many feel depressed because they feel powerless, but you can’t feel both confident and powerless at the same time.
4. Exercise Slows Aging
People who exercise usually feel at least five to ten years younger than their chronological age. They often look it, too. By exercising regularly you could potentially reduce your biological age by as much as 9 years when compared to your chronological age. The maximum reduction in age occurs when 3,500 to 6,500 calories are expended each week.
Depression can also trigger as we age, as the demands of life and its responsibilities mount. Low testosterone levels (in both men and women) can increase age-related depression, but exercise can help boost them. Not only does exercise make you feel and look younger, but it can actually reduce the stress that accompanies becoming an older adult.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.