Depression – How Exercise helped me cope


It’s quite easy to think others have perfect lives from the outside, but you never really know what people struggle with, on a day to day basis.  This may come as a complete surprise to those who know me well, but yes I have suffered from depression and it was probably one of the worst times of my life.  My depression came on gradually, so I didn’t realise something was wrong, until it started to affect my daily life.  I was extremely unhappy in work, constantly tired, had low self esteem, suffered from low moods and was irritable with those I love.  I also had moments of anger and no motivation or interest in any of my hobbies or interests. 

It was actually my wife who suggested that I may be suffering from depression.  To be honest, I laughed at her.  Me, suffer from depression?  However, she was right (don’t tell her that!).  I identified that my depression was as a result of working with people who took advantage of my good nature and treated me with no care or respect.

I have coached people through difficulties times, all of my life, so I knew how important exercise was to my mental health and well-being, but quite frankly, I just couldn’t be bothered!  When you have no energy, why on earth would you exercise?  I had to force myself to get back into my training cycle, but the benefits to me were worth the extra effort.

So, how can physical exercise help with depression?

1.   Improves your sleep pattern – Short bursts of exercise can help regulate your sleep pattern.  If you prefer to exercise at night, try some yoga or gentle stretching, which can help promote sleep.

2.   Boosts your energy – Exercise can help give you a more get up and go attitude.  It improves the blood flow to your body, which allows you to have greater endurance to face the day to day tasks, in front of you.

3.   Reduces anger or frustration – Getting out and going for a walk or a jog in the fresh air can act as a distraction.  It allows you time to gain clarity and try to get rid of the negative thoughts that you may suffer from.

4.   Improves motivation – It can help add structure to your day.  It will make you feel stronger, improve your self esteem and generally make you feel better about yourself.

5.   Promotes a healthy appetite – Diet can be hugely affected by depression.  You find yourself eating rubbish which makes you feel lethargic.  Exercise can help you feel better about yourself and improve your food choices.

6.   Reduces tension, stress – The endorphins released in the brain through exercise, can relieve tension and stress.  When your body starts to feel better, your mind will too, as they are closely linked.

You don’t need to spend hours out of your day exercising, to reap the mental health rewards.  Try 30 mins of moderate exercise 3-5 times a week.  If that seems a little intimidating, don’t worry.  Listen to your body, even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all.  If you haven’t exercised in a long time, chat to your doctor and work out what the best type of exercise is for you.

We all go through challenging times in our lives, but it’s how we deal with them, that gets us through.  Whilst exercise alone didn’t sort out all of the issues that were causing my depression, it certainly helped.  Remember, self care is the most important thing!

Make the Change!


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