Thursday, April 7, 2011

Depression-Busting Exercise

In the past year, especially since the beginning of 2011, I've noticed that I've been struggling with more intense bouts of depression than I have in quite some time, if ever.  Regardless of whether I'm on or off medication, I keep getting sucked deep into depression's black hole.  When I'm there, it's a struggle to get dressed in the morning, much less write, hoop, clean, leave the house, take a shower, pray, or do any of the things that I either want or need to do.  For me, the word that bests describes the effects of depression is inertia. 

This morning I ran across a great article from WebMD that has got me thinking about why my depression has become so much more intense these days.  The article discusses the effects exercise has on depression patients.  I thought the information the article had to present was pretty astounding.  Consider this statistic:

In one 2005 study conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 30 minutes of moderately intense exercise five days a week reduced symptoms of depression by nearly half after 12 weeks.

Wow.  Essentially, if exercise is included in the treatment plan for a patient with depression, they are likely to experience 50% more success in overcoming the disease.  That's pretty amazing.

And then I realized -- when I started taking medication to combat my depression back in 2009, I was exercising regularly.  Well, I was really overexercising, which I don't advocate, but still -- I was exercising.  I was reaping the benefits of exercise in my battling with depression.  I got daily doses of mood-boosting, blues-busting endorphins. I moved my body regularly, and that combined with my depression medication to help me rise above that awful inertia. 

And, today, I don't move regularly.  True, it's been a rough year even without factoring in preexisting mental health issues.  Still, the fact is that my failure to exercise on a mostly-daily schedule has allowed depression to take a more solid hold on my life. 

Over the past few days I have been trying to get back into an exercise routine, trying to train my body and mind to include that discipline my daily life again.  I've been exercising for at least twenty to twenty-five minutes a day with Jillian Michaels -- and it's true that even that small (but intense) bout of effort raises my mood and energy levels for a short while afterward.  It's been hard to get myself out of my pajamas and into my sneakers, but it's been worth it even in the short term.  Imagine the effects, both on body and mind, after twelve weeks of this!  I'm eager to find out.

Honestly, this concept isn't new to me.  I already knew that exercise boosts the mood.  I also already knew about the story of Jonathan Baxter, creator of The Hoop Path, and how he found that a daily hoop practice helped him defeat depression.  But I guess I forgot, or at least forgot how it applies to my life.  I'm grateful for the reminder

If you are a regular exerciser, do you find that exercising lifts your mood or combats depression?  If you're not, are you willing to join me on a journey to defeat depression with exercise?


  1. Beth - YES! I've struggled with many of the things you speak about - so after I got my eating in check...I sort of rebelled AGAINST doing exercise for fear of OVERdoing it...again. Then I found that I was just SO sad. Again. A lot. Too much. I had to laugh when I saw Jillian Michaels come up because that is who I eased myself back in to exercise with, too. Just that 20-25 minutes a few times a week really helped. I watched myself to make sure that I wasn't FREAKING OUT when I missed a day - but I found that it was easier to maintain perspective than it had been in the past. Whenever I stop moving my depression definitely gets worse. I wish that I wasn't depressed no matter what (haha) but it's great to have a tool like this! Good luck & positive energy your way! I know you can do this. (And as always - thanks for sharing :)

  2. Beth @ To the FullesApril 7, 2011 at 8:49 AM

    Kym, I don't know if it's just my over-active emotions thanks to depression, but you words brought tears to my eyes. I feel SO encouraged -- and glad to know that I'm not alone, that you were in a very similar place and made it out (with Jillian! haha). Thank you so much. Now, off to the 30 Day Shred I go. :)

  3. I am right there with you guys! When my eating disorder started taking form, and I noticed it, I became scared of all things healthy, for fear that I would become obsessed (again), so I shied away from it all. Fast forward a year and half, and I too find myself battling the "it's ok if I stay in pajamas all day" apathy. I have been trying very hard to get back into a regular fitness routine, but it is a lot harder to get into now than I remember it being. I know that exercise is so good for me in so many ways, including my mood, which, when out of balance, affects not just me, but my partner and pretty much everyone close to me. Here's to getting back into it together! (No lie, the boyfriend and I sat down and created a workout plan together, starting today. Let's go for 12 weeks!!!!)

  4. I do notice that when I get in a routine of any sort that includes exercise or physical activity that I feel better. Esp. if the weather is nicer and I can be outside.

  5. yogiclarebear.comApril 7, 2011 at 12:59 PM

    Heya Beth,This is a bit of a hard one for me, with the over-exerciser demon still admittedly present in my life. I am hugely aware of the depression busting benefits of exercise, but for me, it is more like an “addiction feeding” than “getting out of a rut.” I have to find a balance in this. Endorphins, when utilized in a healthy way, are the body's natural healers, both physically and emotionally! But like anything that feels good...they can become addicting, again, both physically and emotionally. I wonder if you still fear this addiction, with your history, which might explain your lately bout of “regular” inactivity? I want to join your journey to beat the blues with HEALTHY exercise. For me right now, its still seeking that balance and knowing that sometimes, the depression that comes with RESTING (read: detoxing from the addiction) is part of that process too...

  6. Beth @ To the FullesApril 7, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Claire, I totally understand. Maybe for you (and any other current overexercisers) depression would be defeated more by finding balance, moderation, and sanity in exercise instead of doing more. I'm so glad that you're aware of this! :)

  7. Beth @ To the FullesApril 7, 2011 at 5:38 PM

    Dani, that is AWESOME! Let's kick depression's arse together. :)


"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King