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Exercise is well known to be an effective method to combat depression and anxiety, but how does it actually help and how does this stack up with conventional medication? How much exercise is adequate? How do you keep motivated and consistent? We will discuss more here.
How Does Exercise actually help?
Exercise Improves the mood
Regular physical activity encourages the body to release feel good chemicals called endrophins that minimises pain and increases the feeling of pleasure, thereby, improving the sense of overall well-being (1).
Exercise has also been proven to increase the size of the part of the brain that regulates mood – the hippocampus. Individuals suffering from depression tend to have a smaller hippocampus (2)
A great and effective alternative to medication
Studies have been conducted to compare the effectiveness of aerobic exercises against Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) in addressing major depressive disorders. A study showed that, participants with major depressive disorders and whom were put through a 10 month long aerobic exercise regimen, felt less depressed as compared to those who only took medication (2).
Keeps your mind occupied
During exercise, the mind will be occupied with the movements and physical tasks ahead. This routine demands focus, which results in individuals stepping away from the negative thoughts that cycle through the mind.
Builds self confidence
Self confidence can be built through personal achievements, and this is exactly what exercising can potentially offer. Whether if it is through completing certain physical challenges, exceeding personal best records, or achieving that healthy image, these are aspects that can bring about positive mental changes through confidence building (3).
Creating a healthy habit
Managing depression and anxiety through exercise is considered a way better form of coping as compared to alcohol consumption, food binging, self-evaluating depressive moods, or basically just hoping that the negativity will simply go away (3).
How much exercise is enough?
Before starting any exercise routine, it would be strongly recommended to consult the relevant healthcare professionals so as to get off your fitness journey in the safest and most effective way possible.
Exercising is actually a very broad term that does not necessarily confine one to commonly known activities such as weight lifting in the gym, or jogging on the tracks. Incorporating exercise into everyday activities can be an efficient way to keep fit throughout the entire day, such as, substituting the lift for stairs climbing, carrying out basic bodyweight movements (squats, push ups or dips) while watching TV or getting off the bus one or two stops earlier and brisk walk the rest of the journey.
It is recommended for adults to carry out 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, sport or exercise, in 10 minutes or more session every week. Try to spread these weekly efforts evenly throughout the 7 days.
Tips to get motivated
As the saying goes, “If you are persistent, you will get it. If you are consistent, you get to keep it.” Consistency in all aspects of life let us maintain what we have been striving for all this while, and fitness is no different.
Find your Joy
Try out various sports or fitness routines, and discover the one or few that keeps your interest level high. Stick to these activities, hone your skills and try to achieve your set targets, building self-confidence along the way.
Set SMART goals
- Specific : Cite exactly what you want to achieve and accomplish
- Measurable : Use smaller milestones to measure how well you are progressing.
- Achievable : Make your goals reasonable and achievable at your current level. Do not rush into aggressive exercising if the body cannot keep up, it will have detrimental consequences.
- Realistic : Set a goal that is relevant to your lifestyle
- Time-bound : Give yourself ample time but set a deadline for each target
Find a community
Interact with friends or build a community around the activity that you are interested in. Socialise with others and keep everyone motivated through helping one another achieve their goals.
Think of why you started
When you find motivation declining, always look back and ask yourself the purpose of you starting this fitness journey in the first place. Tell yourself how much it has helped you thus far and keep yourself inspired to move forwards as things are just going to get better as you move ahead.
By : Alvin Ho
B (Eng), MBA, Certified Allied Healthcare/Fitness Professional (EIMS), Master Fitness Trainer / Fitness Nutrition, Resistance & Endurance Training Specialist (NFPT)