Using Exercise to Ward Off Depression

Couple Running

Exercise is a great way to naturally improve your mental health and reduce your symptoms of depression. The trick can be getting started and keeping your routine, especially if you are dealing with depression.

How Does Exercise Help? 

man on a bike rideFor your body to function properly, your mind must be healthy and alert. The state of your mind affects your body. If you are tired, depressed, or anxious, you are less likely to exercise or do other healthy activities you perceive as strenuous.

But exercise can improve mental health, and reduce:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • And negative mood

Exercise releases chemicals in your brain that:

  • Make you happy
  • Boost your self-esteem
  • Help improve your concentration
  • And make you look and feel better

Leading an active life can help improve your feelings of self-worth and lift your confidence.

How Do I Get Started? 

Scott Nichols, M.D.Enloe Behavioral Health’s Medical Director and Psychiatrist Scott Nichols, M.D., said, “For some people who suffer from depression symptoms, exercise is as effective of a treatment as medications such as antidepressants.”

Dr. Nichols points out that unless exercise is associated with something meaningful and enjoyable, we are unlikely to do it. Your routine does not have to include traditional exercises like jogging on a treadmill or lifting weights to qualify as actual physical activity.

Think about the activities you love. That could be walking outside and talking with a friend, fixing a trail at the park, going sailing or even getting out in the backyard and chasing your dog around. These are all examples of ways we can physically stimulate our bodies and positively affect our minds.

Feeling Better in Many Ways

Woman on a bike ride

Staying active is the best way to engage your brain and keep your endorphins flowing. The Journal of Psychiatry reports the health benefits you may see as a result of consistent exercise are:
  • Better sleep
  • More interest in physical romance
  • Stress relief
  • Improvement in your mood
  • Reduced tiredness
  • Increased alertness
  • Weight loss
  • Reduced cholesterol
  • And improved cardiovascular function

Enloe Behavioral Health, the only voluntary inpatient psychiatric facility in Northern California, promotes physical activities in our occupational therapy groups and offers a workout center.

Enloe Occupational Therapist Patty Principi incorporates deep breathing, stretching, coordination activities, proper posture and yoga into the daily movement groups.

“Breathing is the most important tool that any person can have,” she said. “Learning how to practice diaphragmatic breathing — deep breathing from diaphragm — can help you relax and deal with stress."

How Much Is Enough? 

happy couple walkingThe important thing to remember is something is better than nothing.

“You shouldn’t feel obligated to have a certain goal in mind. Start small with a walk around the block. As you see results and feel the positive effects of your work, you’ll want to increase your goal,” Dr. Nichols said.

Thirty minutes of physical activity five days per week is recommended by the American Heart Association. See how this works for you.

Thirty minutes can be broken up into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions. Be creative, and make it fun!

When Exercise Isn’t Enough

Man doing yoga

While exercising can make a positive difference in our mental and physical well-being, sometimes it’s not enough. Cognitive or talk therapy, medication, or other options may be needed to get the right healthy balance.

If life at home or work has become overwhelming, it’s important to ask for help. Ask early. You do not have to be in crisis first. The sooner you reach out, the easier it will be to begin healing.

Enloe Behavioral Health is open 24/7, with visiting hours from 6-7:15 p.m. for those who have a confidentiality code from a patient prior to visiting.

Our staff offers free assessments and is made up of psychiatrists, nurses, occupational therapists, social workers, registered nurses, and mental health workers. 

Please call 530-332-5250 or 800-560-5900 to schedule a complimentary assessment, or simply walk in at 560 Cohasset Road in Chico.

Contact Us

Enloe Behavioral Health Program

530-332-5250 | Toll-free: 800-560-5900

24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Visiting Hours: 6 to 7:15 p.m. | All visitors must have a confidentiality code from a patient prior to visiting.

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