Call it the doldrums, cabin fever, or an instinct to hibernate: the shorter, grayer days of fall and winter can sometimes get you down. Cold weather is inevitable, but the “blues,” known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder), do not have to be! In fact, a dose of regular physical activity may boost your mood. Researchers have found that even people with mild to moderate clinical depression can gain relief through exercise. For most people, it is as effective as psychotherapy and antidepressant medications.
Scientists surmise that exercise stimulates the activity of mood-related brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Mayo Clinic experts say it “may also boost feel-good endorphins, reduce muscle tension, improve sleep and reduce cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress.”
While more rigorous activities, such as running, seem to produce the best results, more moderate exercises, including strength training, aerobics, and low-intensity workouts, such as walking, dancing, swimming, or gardening, are all effective mood lifters.
Optimally, 30-minute moderate-intensity sessions 3 to 5 times a week are enough to make a difference, in some cases cutting depression symptoms by nearly half. If it is difficult to get started, shorter amounts of activity—even 10 to 15 minutes at a time—can improve mood.
Any activity you enjoy is an excellent place to start, especially since depression affects motivation. The payoffs will be worth it. Not only can exercise improve your mood but it is also good for weight management and strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure, and improves muscle tone and strength.
Exercise is not necessarily a substitute for medical treatment of depression, a clinical illness that can undermine your health, relationships, and quality of life. But if you just suffer from seasonal “blues,” consult us for a discussion of your exercise options and a program designed just for you. It’s time to banish your “blues” with exercise!
Your path to wellness begins here. Request a complimentary fitness consultation at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness in Los Altos, CA.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.
Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.