Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Like to Move It!

I earned my bachelor's degree in Fitness and Wellness Management, so this post is an obvious one for me. One way to chase away the blues and clear more room for joy in your life is...

I know that is a word that many people dread. I am a freak of nature and actually enjoy exercising, especially running. Weird, I know. But I respect the fact that not everyone is blessed to share my opinion. I know many people exercise whether they love it or not. If that's you, good for you! If not, just read the post and see if you can squeeze in some "sweatin' time". I'm not trying to add one more thing to your to-do list, exercise is just extremely worthwhile. Most of this post will be taken from an article written by Mayo Clinic staff. If you want to read the whole thing (highly recommended) click here. To get you interested, here is a summary:
How It Helps:
Research suggests that it may take at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for at least three to five days a week to significantly improve depression symptoms. But smaller amounts of activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — can improve mood in the short term. "Small bouts of exercise may be a great way to get started if it's initially too hard to do more," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.
Just how exercise reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety isn't fully understood. Some evidence suggests that exercise raises the levels of certain mood-enhancing neurotransmitters in the brain. Exercise may also boost feel-good endorphins, release muscle tension, help you sleep better, and reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also increases body temperature, which may have calming effects. All of these changes in your mind and body can improve such symptoms as sadness, anxiety, irritability, stress, fatigue, anger, self-doubt and hopelessness. (In other words, anti-joy feelings.)

Confidence. Being physically active gives you a sense of accomplishment. Meeting goals or challenges, no matter how small, can boost self-confidence at times when you need it most. Exercise can also make you feel better about your appearance and your self-worth.

Distraction. When you have depression or anxiety, it's easy to dwell on how badly you feel. But dwelling interferes with your ability to problem solve and cope in a healthy way. Dwelling can also make depression more severe and longer lasting. Exercise can shift the focus away from unpleasant thoughts to something more pleasant, such as your surroundings or the music you enjoy listening to while you exercise.

Interactions. Depression and anxiety can lead to isolation. That, in turn, can worsen your condition. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others, even if it's just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood.

Healthy coping. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol excessively, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping depression and anxiety will go away on their own aren't helpful coping strategies.
Tips to start exercising when you have depression or anxiety
Of course, knowing that something's good for you doesn't make it easier to actually do it. With depression or anxiety, you may have a hard enough time just doing the dishes, showering or going to work. How can you possibly consider getting in some exercise?

Here are some steps that can help you exercise when you have depression or anxiety. As always, check with your health care provider before starting a new exercise program to make sure it's safe for you.

Get your mental health provider's support. Some, but not all, mental health providers encourage exercise as a part of their treatment plan. Talk to your doctor or therapist for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about an exercise program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.

Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of exercise or activities you're most likely to do. And think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a walk in the woods or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.

Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn't have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think about what you may be able to do in reality. Twenty minutes? Ten minutes? Start there and build up. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet idealistic guidelines that could just add to your pressure.

Don't think of exercise as a burden. If exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or antidepressant medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Address your barriers. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising. If you feel intimidated by others or are self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise in the privacy of your own home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don't have extra money to spend on exercise gear, do something that's virtually cost-free — walk. If you think about what's stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Exercise isn't always easy or fun. And it's tempting to blame yourself for that. People with depression are especially likely to feel shame over perceived failures. Don't fall into that trap. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn't mean you're a failure and may as well quit entirely. Just try again the next day.
Sticking with exercise when you have depression or anxiety
Launching an exercise program is hard. Sticking with it can be even harder. One key is problem solving your way through when it seems like you can't or don't want to exercise.

"What would happen if you went out to your car and it wouldn't start?" Dr. Vickers-Douglas asks. "You'd probably be able to very quickly list several strategies for dealing with that barrier, such as calling an auto service, taking the bus, or calling your partner or friend for help. You instantly start problem solving."

But most people don't approach exercise that way. What happens if you want to go for a walk but it's raining? Most people decide against the walk and don't even try to explore alternatives. "With exercise, we often hit a barrier and say, 'That's it. I can't do it, forget it,' " Dr. Vickers-Douglas says.

Instead, problem solve your way through the exercise barrier, just as you would other obstacles in your life. Figure out your options — walking in the rain, going to a gym, exercising indoors, for instance.

"Some people think they need to wait until they somehow generate enough willpower to exercise," Dr. Vickers-Douglas says. "But waiting for willpower or motivation to exercise is a passive approach, and when someone has depression and is unmotivated, waiting passively for change is unlikely to help at all. Focusing on a lack of motivation and willpower can make you feel like a failure. Instead, identify your strengths and skills and apply those to taking some first steps toward exercise."
Okay, so I pretty much posted the whole article. But didn't you think it was really great? (And I'm a little short on time tonight). I really feel that exercise should be something that everyone makes room for in their lives. I know you are all very busy. But you can find a way to make it work. We bought a treadmill a few years ago so I could exercise while KN slept. One summer a friend and I went walking every morning. Now I have a gym membership that includes childcare so I get to exercise and get a break every day. It's so great. I always feel happier after a good workout.
What are your positive experiences with exercise? What are some of your barriers to exercising? How can/have you overcome them? What are some of your favorite ways to exercise?


Ketchesons said...

This is a super hard one for me. I had severe asthma all growing up and was not allowed to run or get excited. I could dance and that was and is the best exercise I get, when
I get it. Now that my asthma is better I go to the gym and love to sweat and get hot, I love my kickboxing class. The problem, I don't go everyday if I'm tired I stay home, Dave got me DDR and it helped for 3 months and then the fun wore off.
My advice, find something you really like that will get your heart rate up and find a friend to do it with, it will be easier :-)

Linda said...

A great post - Thanks! Since I started exercising regularly, about 20 years ago, I discovered that I get at least as much good mentally and emotionally as I do physically. Getting those endorphins going keeps me going in every way. It's one of those things that you have to experience to know how much it helps, so I would encourage others to get started by making a commitment to exercise for a month, at least 3 times a week, and notice the differences you see and feel. And then make a longer commitment. You are worth it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anna Cosby said...

I love this article. I have to admit that I've slacked off the last few months. But this baby's coming in 21 days and I can't wait to start up again. I even got my entire new ward training for a triathlon come May. Can't wait. But dance is definitely my fav. kind of exercise.

Amy said...

I think the best I ever felt emotionally was my last two years of college, when I would walk from my apartment (near DI in Provo) to BYU at least twice every day. (It took me about 30-45 min each way.) Then I would go country dancing almost every Saturday (especially if I knew that a certain cute boy was going to be there.) And that helped me get exercise and get socializing. I've never had that kind of time or free time from my kids to do that again, but I definitely know it would help. I recently bought a treadmill and when I walk regularly, it helps me feel better. Scott and I exercise together in the evenings. It helps us to be there to motivate eachother.

Kristen and Shawn said...

I didn't use to like to exercise, but I love it now! It's all about starting small. Even days I don't feel like exercising because I am tired, if I just tell myself I am going to climb on the elliptical and do it for 10 or 15 minutes, I usually end up having fun and working out for 30 minutes.