When you've got depression, getting out of bed can feel hard enough. But conversely, exercise is actually an incredibly useful tool to help combat some of the symptoms.
"When you exercise you release 'feel good' hormones called endorphins which help reduce negative feelings and improve your mood," explains Hayley Jarvis, Head of Physical Activity at mental health charity Mind.
As well as that, Hayley points out that exercise can help to break up racing thoughts that often compound depression. "As the body tires so does the mind, leaving you calmer and better able to think clearly. Simply taking time out to exercise can also give people the space to think things over and help clear the mind," she explains.
Exercise is such an important part of easing the symptoms of depression, but the term 'exercise' is a pretty sweeping one, so which kinds of physical activity are going to be most effective in helping you to beat depression? Experts from Mind and Anytime Fitness help you work out where to start:
A common misconception is that exercise has to be "hard" to be effective. But sometimes, quite the opposite is true. Hard exercise can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which is often present in high levels in people who suffer with depression. For that reason, Marvin Burton, Head of Fitness at Anytime Fitness UK, prefers to recommend more passive forms of exercise.
"A walk in the great outdoors can be a fantastic way to combat depression," Marvin tells. "We’ve all heard the expression of going outside to 'clear your head', but it’s so true. Ultimately, if you have a clearer mind, you’re more likely to achieve greater changes to your physical and mental health."
Mind's Hayley Jarvis agrees, pointing out that scientific research suggests outdoor exercise can be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression. "The colors, sounds and smells we find outdoors stimulate our senses, and being in regular social contact with people can help boost your self-esteem and reduce loneliness," she explains.
Running is the kind of exercise that enables you to notice when your fitness levels progress, which is the kind of reward Hayley suggests will help someone with depression. "Running is a hugely rewarding exercise where you can easily track progress and improvement," she says. "It’s important to find a type of activity that you love and stick to it."
Marvin adds that running can "provide a great escape from your everyday routine and allows you to focus, strive and achieve a personal goal or objective." Plus, he reminds us that running is one of the most accessible forms of exercise, requiring just a pair of trainers and not much else.
In the midst of a depressive episode, it can be easy to want to shut yourself away, becoming isolated from the company of others. But this isn't advisable, and exercising in a group might be a good way to avoid it. "As well as the camaraderie, having the opportunity to speak to people and be social as you work out can deliver huge benefits," says Marvin.
"A group activity might be best for you if you value your boost of a strong social element," adds Hayley, who also points out that "you're much more likely to keep doing it if it's fun and you enjoy the company of those around you."
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.