Got the blues? Get out of your head and back into your body with exercise.
It’s not only food that can make you feel happier and healthier… so can exercise.
Most people think that you only exercise to get a six pack and look good on the beach, but there’s an even more important reason to get hot and sweaty. Exercise is not only good for your self-esteem and your health, but also produces feel-good drugs in your body that can help you feel positive and, some research studies believe, may even be as effective as medication in relieving mild depression.
So why does exercise make you feel happier? Regular exercise alters the ‘serotonin’ levels in your brain. Serotonin is a naturally occurring chemical that affects your moods and feelings. People who suffer from depression often have low serotonin levels. Exercise also increases your body temperature, which may also help you to feel happier.
But it’s not just serotonin that’s boosted when you go for a jog, swim or get your groove on at a dance class. With exercise, you get two free drugs for the price of one. The other chemicals that can get you smiling are called endorphins. These are natural opiate-like drugs that your body produces after exercising. Endorphins reduce pain, sensitivity and stress, and they help produce a positive mood state. People who run often call this endorphin release a “runner’s high” because it feels so good.
IT’S TIME TO MOVE IT…
But it’s not just the increase in serotonin and endorphins that make you feel good when you exercise. Sitting around doing nothing can make you feel depressed but you’ll feel better about yourself if you get pro-active about your health. Also as you start to look fitter and stronger you’ll feel better about the way you look, which can boost your self esteem. Exercising takes your mind off your problems and helps you to get out of your head and back into your body.
Exercise helps to regulate your sugar levels and increase your circulation, which is especially important if you suffer from diabetes. If you exercise outside you’ll also get to enjoy fresh air and nature. Depending on the type of exercise you are doing, you may make new friends by joining a team sport or running group. Exercise also helps you relax and sleep better because it gets rid of the body’s ‘stress’ chemicals, such as adrenaline.
STILL FEELING BLUE?
If despite regular exercise you still feel depressed, then you could be suffering from depression. Everyone feels sad from time to time but depression is when you feel sad, dejected or hopeless for a long time. While exercise may help, you may also need some additional help with your diet, supplements or medication.
If your serotonin levels are very low, medication may be needed, so have a chat to your doctor. If you are depressed it is nothing to be shamed about – around one in five women and one in eight men will suffer from depression at some point in their life. You may also want to talk to your doctor or natural health practitioner about whether you need to look at changing your diet to help with your recovery.
THERE’S HELP OUT THERE
If you think you are depressed, contact your doctor or local AMS or call one of the following help lines:
Beyond Blue Info Line – 1300 224 636
SANE Mental Health Information Line – 1800 18 SANE (7263)
Mental Health Advice Line – 1300 280 737
You can also visit www.beyondblue.org.au for more information.