Niagara Gazette

February 17, 2013

FIT FOR LIFE: Exercise powerful against depression

Chris Tybor
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — As the cold dark days of winter drag on, you may find yourself falling deeper and deeper into a state of lethargy. 

Your New Year’s resolutions are taking a back seat to the always inviting couch, and your enthusiasm for your training program and clean eating is less than the likelihood of you winning the lottery. Have you been feeling this way for a while? These changes in attitude and mood may be more than just the “Winter Blahs,” it may be something more serious, like depression.

Depression can come on due to a variety of factors such as: loss of a loved one or job, divorce, moving, or numerous other environmental or chemical causes. Typical diagnosis requires a two-week period of the following symptoms: feelings of sadness or loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable, in combination with a few other symptoms such as feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fatigue, loss of concentration, appetite and weight changes, sleep disturbance, decrease in speed of movement, or suicidal ideation. 

As shown above, there are varying degrees of depression and none should be left untreated. Regardless of treatment options (prescription or alternative treatments), those suffering from depression can benefit from changes to their exerciseroutine(or lack of exercise altogether) and nutritional strategies.

Exercise has been shown to decrease anxiety, relieve stress, improve self-esteem, improve sex drive and enhance sleep. Pharmacological treatment, that which utilizes medications, as well as psychotherapy, aid in decreasing the symptoms associated with depression. Exercise, however, has been shown to be as successful as both. Some could argue due to the risks associated with medication and the likelihood of an individual making the decision to stop taking his/her meds without doctor approval or assistance, exercise would appear to be the preferred form of treatment. Setting goals and working towards them, such as: leg pressing more weight, decreasing your 2-mile run time or finally being able to shoulder press those 20 pound dumbbells, will minimize those self-doubts from creeping in, thus,increasing your self-worth and confidence. If you followed my advice from my last article and enlisted a fitness professional or workout partner, the social component and benefits of working out with someone cannot be overstated.

Here are some tips if you plan on using exercise as a tool to fight depression:

1. Pick exercises that you enjoy. If you hate running, skip it and do some extra lunges, step ups or use the elliptical. You want the activity to create some more positive energy versus ones that will cause frustration and discouragement.

2. Devise a reward system for accomplishing your goals. Get yourself concert tickets, a new outfit or try that new restaurant that you’ve been wanting to go to.

3. Be realistic with your other time commitments and responsibilities. Do not set yourself up for failure. Realize that while depressed you may miss a day from the gym here and there. This doesn’t mean you failed or are a failure. Remember, showing up is half the battle. 

4. Add variety! Avoid doing the same exercises in the same order or taking the same classes. Not only with this prevent boredom, it will most likely prevent overuse injuries and plateaus as well.

5. Enlist a support system. Rely on friends or family members to help you.

Hire a fitness professional for 2-4 sessions in order to show you new exercises, improve your form or to give your dietary practices a complete overhaul.

Use the above tips in conjunction with your doctor’s advice.

Stay tuned for the next article that will focus on nutritional strategies to help you battle depression.

Christopher R. Tybor is owner of ChrisFit Personal Training. He can be reached at www.chrisfit.net. or by calling 818-0078.