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  • Writer's pictureKatie Gavin

Exercise Makes You Less SAD

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder

It’s that time of year again. The daylight is shorter, the temperatures are colder, and moods are lower. Whether you are a person that suffers from year round anxiety or depression, or maybe just seasonal (SAD), regular exercise can be a great coping mechanism. Depression affects roughly 9.5% of the U.S. adult population each year, and it is estimated that approximately 17% of the U.S. population will suffer from a major depressive episode at some point in their lifetime.

According to Harvard Health research, exercise is just as effective as antidepressants in some

cases. This is because exercise:

· Releases feel-good endorphins, such as serotonin and dopamine, that enhance your sense of well-being

· Takes your mind off of other worries and cuts the negative feedback cycle of thoughts that feed depression

· Helps gain confidence through getting in shape and enhancing appearance or meeting exercise goals and challenges

· Promotes more social interaction through other gym members

It’s easy to sit here and listen to the benefits of exercise, when the hard part is actually

getting yourself to do it. Depression and anxiety can make doing anything seem like an

unmatched task. But honestly, I’d rather feel the uncomfortable pleasure of working out than

feeling the weight of anxiety and depression. A few things can also help get you started and

stay in a routine:

· Identifying what you enjoy doing, you are way more likely to do it if you enjoy it,. You might even have to try a few different things to even figure it out. Most importantly, DON’T STOP TRYING TO FIND IT! There is always something for everyone

· Set reasonable goals- you don’t have to workout 7 days a week, 2 hours a day to see benefits. Start small and grow big. 30 minutes of exercise a day for 3-5 days a week have shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. But if 10-15 minutes is more attractive to you, start with that! A little is better than none

· Analyze barriers- address what’s stopping you from being physically active or exercising. The wall is always easier to break down when you can see it.

· Prepare for setbacks- there will be days that are harder than others. Give credit where credit is due and be kinder to yourself. If you miss a day of exercise, tomorrow is a new day. Never stop trying.

Whether or not depression and or anxiety affects you, its mood boosting benefits are still the

same. Exercise still produces endorphins, which in turn puts you in a better mood. You’ll always regret a workout you didn’t do, while never regretting a workout you already did.

Cooney GM, et al. Exercise for depression. JAMA. 2014;311:2432.

Exercise for stress and anxiety. Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Accessed Sept. 7, 2017.

Anderson E, et al. Effects of exercise and physical activity on anxiety. Frontiers in

Psychiatry. 2013;4:1.


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