You probably have heard many times over that exercise helps people relieve stress and improve their moods, and you’ve probably even experienced this in your own life after a workout, but can exercise also treat and cure clinical depression?
The Difference Between Depression and Clinical Depression
Feelings of depression come to all of us at some time or another and they’re not always the same intensity. Depression ranges in intensity from mild, temporary feelings of sadness to severe, consistent depression. Clinical depression is the most intense form of depression, and it isn’t the same as depression caused by an event, such as the death of a loved one.
Symptoms of clinical depression are usually strong enough to cause noticeable problems in relationships or in routine activities. Some of these symptoms include:
- Loss of interest in activities that you typically enjoy
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Focusing on past failures
- Suicidal thoughts
- Lack of energy
How Can Exercise Help Cure Clinical Depression?
When you’re in a depression the last thing you want to do is go to the gym and that’s because in a depressed state your mind is less motivated than it usually is due to decreased frontal lobe activity. Just as with many things in life however, we must do the things we don’t want to do in order to get the results that we do want.
The reason why exercise benefits people with depression is not because of how it affects them physically, but rather because of what it does for them mentally. By exercising regularly you will start to see changes in your appearance and that will boost your self-esteem, but that is only one small part of the equation. It’s the social aspect of exercise that makes the real difference, such as getting out of the house and taking care of yourself.
You can experience minor benefits through the basic workouts such as running or hiking, but what you really should be doing is high intensity workouts that truly bring adaptations to the body. The interesting reason why, is because of how it relates to our “fight or flight” system, but probably not in the way you would think.
When we experience constant stress it leads to inflammation in both our body and brain, and what that technically means is that our sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous has been active for too long, and the parasympathetic “rest and digest” nervous system hasn’t been activated enough to undo all the stress from the “fight or flight” overactivity. This sequence of too much overactivity and not enough rest in the brain is actually what causes a lot of clinical depression and anxiety.
Sympathetic Nervous System – prepares the body for intense physical activity and is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response.
Parasympathetic Nervous System – has almost the exact opposite effect and relaxes the body and inhibits or slows many high energy functions.
You might be thinking that high intensity exercise has got to be the complete opposite of a benefit for this type of situation, but in reality, it actually strengthens your parasympathetic nervous system which will allow you to recover from stressful events easier.
The reason why the exercise needs to be intense is because we want to release the endorphins (pleasure chemicals), and for this to happen we have to push the limits of our bodies and do it often.
It’s likely that you know at least one person that is obsessed with exercise, let’s use them as an example. Have you ever noticed that exercise addicts tend to be pretty happy people and look forward to the next day even if they’re currently drenched in sweat lying on the floor? These people are glad to wake up sore and tired which may not make sense to you at first, but once you get involved in a consistent workout routine you will understand why.
Another reason why exercise is such a great tool for depression treatment is because it teaches you that progress not perfection is what creates happiness in your life. It’s an absolutely incredible feeling when you do something that you couldn’t do just a little while ago and exercise is a fantastic way of seeing these results. If you increase your mile time or lift a weight that was previously too heavy, you are going to become happy because that is concrete proof that you are making progress. Do this everyday and you can see how depression can begin to fade away.
If you’re motivated and ready to get help for your addiction and start living your life happy and healthy, call us at (877) 212-8299 and our treatment specialists will guide you throughout the process to your recovery.