Beat the Blue: Depression and Exercise

Jun 29, 2008 | fitness, Motivation

It is widely accepted that exercise benefits people suffering from depression, but rarely do depressed people feel like donning their lycra outfit and bouncing out the door for a workout. So how do we as friends, loved ones, or sufferers break that downward spiral caused by depression and the lethargy that goes with it?

Depression affects one in five people, so chances are either you, or someone close to you suffers this debilitating disease. More and more studies are revealing that what has historically been thought of as the cause, a chemical imbalance, may not be the main culprit but rather it can be caused by an individual’s interpretation of certain events in their lives, and the way they choose to deal with them (The myth of the chemical cure).

Accepting depression as a result of the way people see themselves and their world means people have taken responsibility for themselves. Breaking the ‘blame cycle’ opens up more opportunity for a person to re-ignite that fire in their belly and take matters into their own hands. It is at this point that exercise can really propel a person into recovery as it is the link between thinking and actually doing. It’s the law of inertia, action, leads to more action, and sometimes, a stroll through the park is just enough to give a person the energy to make that phone call they are dreading, or book that appointment with a therapist, or write the CV they have been hesitating about.

One of the side effects of depression is lethargy, yet one of the side effects of lethargy can be depression, which makes it very difficult to break the cycle. Doing it alone often proves too tough, so whether it’s you or someone you know, here are some tips that may help bridge the gap between thinking and action:

1. When you go to meet up with them, rather than sitting in their house or a cafe, go for a 20-30min walk together.

2. If someone isn’t ready to seek emotional help, send physical help: Although personal trainers are in no way equipped to deal with issues surrounding depression, an empathetic trainer will match the exercise routine to the mood of the person. Whether it be as simple as going for a walk or practicing yoga in the comfort of their own home, a trainer will ensure that physical activity is achieved. Find a trainer who is willing to go to their house and who is understanding of the delicate condition of the sufferer.

3. Help them make a plan or set a goal: Help them plan a physical event that will motivate them to exercise. It could be a 5km fun walk, a bush walk, a six week yoga course. Do it together to aid in motivation

4. Make it social: this could mean only two people or it could entail a group. Even if someone doesn’t feel like socialising, when it’s an active situation, there are lots of distractions to make conversation flow, and create an enjoyable atmosphere.

More tips on depression and exercise

For more information on depression and dealing with depression, visit Beyond Blue

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