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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Exercise and The Holiday Blues

Caution: Consult a medical professional if you have major depression, a potentially dangerous condition that requires correct diagnosis and treatment. Home remedies should only be used with medical approval. Also, check with your medical professional for prescription drug contraindications, and double check with your pharmacist to be extra sure.

From now until the new year I'm going to write about depression, focusing on a remedy per day. Today's post is about exercise for depression. And by depression, I do not mean major depression. I mean something more like the holiday blues.

Since I wrote about rest and the holiday blues, I thought it would be good to follow with exercise and the holiday blues. And what perfect timing, since you may also want to lose a few extra pound gained during the holidays.

When you feel depressed, probably the last thing you want to do is exercise. Get a buddy to exercise with, to help you keep motivated. A simple ten minute walk is a whole lot better than just sitting around feeling down. Bundle up, and get out in the fresh air. Wear a scarf to cover your mouth and nose if you have problems exercising in cold air.

Don't feel like getting out? Hop on an exercise bike or treadmill if you have one. If you don't have an exercise machine, put on some lively music and dance, it's great exercise! Two or three songs and you've had a short but helpful workout. Make some playlists for exercise for your iPod or MP3 player. Variety makes it more interesting, and you can make playlists for 10, 15, 20 and 30-minute exercise periods.

If you have a Wii, get an exercise program to go with it. Borrow one for a few days if you're not sure you'll really like it. Such a system helps you keep track of what you've accomplished, which will motivate you to stick with it.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Since it's hard to motivate yourself to exercise when you already feel down, exercise regularly to help prevent depression.
  • Don't overdo it. If you haven't exercised lately, start with 3, 5 or 10 minute exercise routines, and build up slowly.
  • If you stop while you're still enjoying it, you'll want to do it again! Even if you put in less time to begin with, you may exercise more regularly and stay with the program! So you benefit more in the long run.
  • Mix it up! Walk one day, ride a bike on a warmer day, swim, dance, etc. Spice up your routine with variety. Alternatively, if you're a creature of habit and like things the same, choose one type of exercise and do it for a while, then switch to another if you want a change.
  • Break it up! Even simple, brief bouts of exercise help, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking your car farther away in the parking lot. (Once upon a time we had to get up to change the channel!)

How exercise helps

  • Exercise increases your heart rate, which can raise your metabolic rate. More exercise leads to more energy!
  • It also works your muscles, keeping them stronger so physical tasks are easier. When you let yourself get too out of shape, your body has more difficulty keeping up with daily life, and that, in itself, is depressing! (I speak from years of experience.)
  • When you exercise, you blow off some toxins through respiration, and you may also increase your lung capacity. If your exercise has directions that include specific breathing techniques, be sure to follow them; they help you oxygenate your body properly to help you exercise more efficiently and effectively.
  • Exercise alters your body chemistry in a way that helps fight depression.

Further Reading:

Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms - Mayo Clinic's website

Exercise and Depression - WebMD article

Exercise and Depression - Harvard Health Publication, Harvard Medical School

Is Nintendo's Wii Really Good Exercise? - article explores benefits, concludes it may be good for mile to moderate exercise, but not the best for a good cardio workout.

Buy Exercise Equipment at

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