Exercise has numerous health benefits that go beyond benefiting the physical body and can also provide mental and emotional benefits. A sedentary lifestyle may increase risk for depression and can increase risk for many chronic diseases. Getting some exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when you are depressed, but it may help your depression and other health markers.
Here are some practical suggestions for getting motivated to exercise when you’re depressed.
Enjoy your exercise
Sometimes exercise is seen as a burden or another thing you have to endure. However, exercise should be enjoyable, and doing something you like will naturally increase your desire to go do it. Think of it less as “exercise” and more about “movement” if that helps. If going to a gym seems unrealistic or the last thing you want to do, find other ways to get moving.
Examples could be: walking outside, going for a bike ride, playing soccer, volleyball, dodgeball or softball in a community league, dancing, hiking, swimming, etc. Changing up your routine will also keep it interesting and not make it boring and predictable.
Being in nature is therapeutic for many people and may be more stimulating. The more the natural setting, the better when possible. If the sun is out, take advantage of it and spend time outside while exercising. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D which may have an advantage on depression levels.
Researchers are now finding that vitamin D may have a role with mental health, and the effect of vitamin D and depression is still being studied. Some research suggests low blood levels of vitamin D and depression.
Listen while you move
Putting the focus on something else besides the exercise may help you get moving. Listening to a book on tape while you walk or exercise may help add extra motivation to get going. This may also increase the pleasure you get out of exercise and may keep you going. Try to pick an action or adventure story- you may want to exercise longer than anticipated to hear more of the story!
Listening to music can also bring greater enjoyment to working out. Focus on listening to s type of music, or story, that you listen to only when you are exercising. If you enjoy talk radio, this could also be an enjoyable outlet to move to, and only listen to it when you are moving.
Workout with a friend
Having some accountability and comradery in exercise can go a long way and motivate anyone. Relating to someone through an exercise routine you both like can bring increased excitement and enjoyment from exercise. You can also both hold each other accountable, and it will be harder to miss a workout session if you know someone else is counting on you to be there. If you don’t have anyone to exercise with that you know, think of joining a team or group class.
Have a destination
Working out with a purpose can kill two birds with one stone and can save time. If you have to run some local errands, think of walking or riding your bike to get them done. This will give your exercise time more meaning, and you can’t quit half way through because you are going point to point.
Meeting up with a friend? Find a half-way point and meet each other there. If it’s too far for you to walk or bike the whole way, park your car somewhere in between so you can still get some exercise in.
Help someone else through your exercise
One tangible way to help with depression is getting the focus off yourself and help someone else. There are many programs in place that pair adults up with children to do beneficial activities together. For example, you could be a big brother or sister to a child and do fun activities together.
You could raise money for a charity organization for a race in the future. This will give you motivation to train if you are doing it for a cause to help other people and will make you feel good doing it.
The benefits of exercise extend to helping someone battle depression. Enjoying exercise is a big strategy, as you should be looking forward to doing something you love not dreading something you know you have to do. Moving more can help give you pleasure in your brain if you enjoy what you’re doing.
Exercising outside is not only invigorating but it can also boost vitamin D levels which may have an impact on depression. Listening to music, a book on tape or talk radio when you are moving can be good motivation and help you enjoy your workout.
Working out with a friend can give extra motivation and accountability as well as planning a destination to go to for exercise like the post office, meet a friend for coffee, grocery store, etc. Shifting the focus to benefiting someone else for exercise can also help; train for a race that is raising money for a charity or be active with someone who needs a mentor.
References used in this article