Depression and physical activity - Maple Services
Depression and physical activity

Depression and physical activity

Engaging in physical activity, or any type of exercise in the midst of deep depression may initially appear paradoxical. If you’re experiencing this struggle first-hand, or know someone who has, every step towards working out or going to an exercise class can seem like a monumental challenge. Yet, it’s precisely this apparent irony that underscores the profound positive impact that regular physical activity can have on your mental health.

The relationship between exercise and depression is profound. Regular physical activity, such as cycling, swimming, team sports or yoga, triggers the release of endorphins and the production of neurotransmitters that regulate our mood. It can reduce stress, improve sleep, boost self-esteem and provide a constructive outlet for emotional turmoil.

Conceptualising exercise as a treatment for depression is one thing; translating that understanding into action is another challenge altogether. When someone lives with a depressive disorder, it can be hard to find the motivation to do anything, let alone engage in physical activity. That’s why we have some valuable tips to get your mind juices flowing along a path towards enriched well-being.

How can exercise help relieve depression?

Exercise offers a powerful antidote to the weight of depression, providing a beacon of hope for those grappling with the challenges of this condition. When we are able to engage in physical activity, a cascade of positive effects unfold with the body and mind. Exercise triggers the release of endorphins, those natural mood enhancers, which can alleviate feelings of sadness and despair.

Additionally, it promotes the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine, which play pivotal roles in regulating our mood. These chemical changes in the brain serve as a natural and non-pharmacological means of enhancing our mental health. It can also reduce stress hormones in the body, which are often elevated in those with depression. This provides a welcome respite from the pressures of daily life.

How does physical activity affect depression?

Regular exercise can help relieve depression for many reasons, including reducing symptoms and improving your mental and physical health. There are a number of benefits of exercise as a treatment for depression:

Mood enhancement – Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. These neurochemicals can help ease feelings of depression and improve your overall mood. 

Stress reduction – Physical activity can lower your stress levels by reducing the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. It provides a healthy outlet for pent-up tension and can help manage stress-related symptoms of depression.

Sleep improvement – Regular exercise can lead to better sleep quality, which is often disrupted by depression. Poor sleep can exacerbate your depressive symptoms, and physical activity can promote a deeper, more restful night’s sleep.

Social interaction – Engaging in group activities or sports can provide opportunities for social interaction and support, which can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness that often accompany depression. 

Boosted self-esteem – Achieving your fitness goals and improving our physical health through exercise can boost our self-esteem and self-confidence, which can be especially important for people living with depression.

What is the best exercise for depression?

The best exercise for depression depends on many of your personal factors. Ideally, the exercise that works for you will be one that brings you joy. When deciding what activities might work for you, take into account your fitness levels, and also the specific nature of your depression.

Whether you thrive on competition, relish team dynamics, find solace in solitary workouts, or revel in a combination of these, the realm of physical activity offers a rich tapestry of choices, each with its own unique potential to enhance our well-being. 

Here are some options for physical activities that might help you with depression: 

Aerobic activities – Exercises such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and dancing are often recommended for managing depression. Aerobic exercises increase heart rate and breathing, which can lead to the release of endorphins and other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

Yoga – Yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation, making it an ideal choice for reducing depression. It encourages mindfulness, relaxation, and flexibility, and can improve your mood and overall well-being.

Tai Chi – This slow and flowing martial art involves gentle movements and deep breathing. Tai Chi can help reduce depression by enhancing relaxation and improving your physical and mental balance.

Team sports – When we play as part of a team we not only make social connections, we can encourage each other, reach goals together, boost each other’s confidence, and learn to cope with high pressure situations in a relaxed and fun environment.

Keep in mind that the most effective exercise for managing depression is one that you derive pleasure from and can seamlessly weave into your daily routine. Identify an activity that sparks your enthusiasm and is sustainable over time. You can explore a range of exercise options or contemplate integrating a few different ones to discover what resonates best for you.

What activities should be avoided with arthritis?

While a healthy routine of physical activities can be beneficial for arthritis, certain activities should be approached with caution or avoided if possible, especially if they exacerbate pain or put excessive stress on the affected joints. The activities to be cautious of may vary depending on the type and severity of your arthritis, but some general guidelines to follow are to:

  • Avoid activities that involve high impact movements, body contact and jarring forces on your joints. These could include running or jogging, jumping exercises, high energy aerobics or sports like rugby. 
  • Avoid activities that require repetitive joint movements, especially if they cause pain or discomfort. Examples include lifting heavy weights and activities that involve repetitive gripping or twisting such as racquet sports.
  • Avoid overexertion or pushing yourself too hard during physical activity as this could lead to injury or worsen your arthritis symptoms. Listen to your body and avoid pushing through severe pain.
  • Avoid exercising in extreme weather as this can exacerbate your arthritis symptoms. Make sure you stay hydrated in very hot weather and dress warmly in the cold to protect joints from stiffness.

How can my Support Worker help with physical activity?

Maple support workers provide an extensive array of support services, catering to diverse service levels. Our expertise lies in assisting participants from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds, as well as those with significant support requirements. By becoming a part of the Maple community, you unlock a wealth of opportunities and pathways to discover the physical activities that truly resonate with your passions.

Maple Services takes great pride in its strategic partnerships with Athletics NSW and various local community sporting organisations, which have become a cornerstone of its commitment to fostering education and creating opportunities for the disabled community across Australia. Through these collaborations, Maple Services extends its reach beyond traditional community services, empowering individuals with disabilities through tailored physical activity programs and inclusive sports environments. 

By offering a platform for education, engagement, and skill development, Maple Services’ partnerships epitomise its dedication to enhancing the lives of those it serves. This is just another reason as to why people choose Maple for their Community Services needs.