Movement is Medicine:
How Jogging Helps Fight Depression
By Sofia Alves
Most often when you least feel like it, exercising can prove to be most beneficial. When feeling blue, lethargic and grumpy, rarely do we ever enthusiastically hop right into our training gear and willingly decide to manage through discomfort, instead of indulging in all the ‘feel-good’ bad habits that kick in as soon as your mood deteriorates. Luckily, that discomfort and even pain in some cases, is only the initial subjective feeling, a consequence of your body being accustomed to doing completely the opposite – not moving.
But the good thing is, as soon as you endure the first wave of unease and struggle, regular exercising will help you deal with not only physical, but also emotional and psychological problems.
THE SCIENCE BEHIND RUNNING
Movement is cross-sectionally associated with lowering neuroticism, anxiety and depression. However, it is important to have in mind the fact that not all exercise can be linked with decreasing symptoms of depression, especially more difficult cases, like clinical depression treated with medication.
Research has shown that moderate intensity physical activity, like running, is highly beneficial, since it helps in releasing chemicals like endorphin, the mood boosting hormone, without being too intense and demanding for the body and the mind, especially for beginners or non-sporty types. Low – intensity exercise sustained over time holds the true value to achieving mental benefits, since it spurs the release of proteins called growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. Jogging is a great blend of moderately intense exercise and a never-dull, fun activity.
After all, the most difficult part in undertaking something new is sticking to it for a longer period of time. Opting for jogging can be a great start, since it doesn’t give you the feeling of actually being restrained to a gym, or any other closed space, it’s done in the comfort of your neighborhood or close area, in open air, and it feels as natural as simply walking - very important for avoiding stress and pressure of making a change. What’s more, it isn’t especially physically demanding and it doesn’t require any special athletic skill or predisposition, making it perfect for everyone.
MAKE A DECISION AND THEN THE FIRST STEP
All that being said, it’s still very difficult for an average person who isn’t suffering from depression to get out and go for a run, let alone for someone who experiences getting out of bed as an everyday battle.
For most of us, the reasons for taking up exercising usually include some kind of gratification we hope to experience after doing something good. Whether it is for achieving that perfect figure, training for the marathon, dealing with high blood pressure, heavy breathing, diabetes or any other important reason - in order to achieve the results, there has to pass a significant amount of time of regular and consistent exercise.
On the other hand, in terms of improving mood and reducing stress and anxiety, exercise brings instant satisfaction. The very first time you get moving, you feel better. The beauty of instant gratification can be the solid starting point for including physical activity as medication for mental and emotional problems. It’s much less demanding than setting physical goals, since the only thing you have to put effort into is making a decision to at least try moving when you feel down. It does sound too general and non-specific to actually be effective, but the simplicity of the process is what makes it doable.
THE MANY BENEFITS OF JOGGING
Jogging is a rhythmic, repetitive, consistent movement, which gives the brain relief from ruminative thinking ( thinking repetitive, unhappy thoughts). You may feel uncomfortable and exhausted at the beginning. However, over some period of time the body starts to work hand in hand with the mind and it becomes less and less physically demanding.
After the physical distress is removed and will power is strong, the exercising becomes fully enjoying and pleasant and its true properties are revealed. Once you turn it into a routine, you will actually crave exercise. In fact, studies have demonstrated that low to moderate intensity exercising is similar to cognitive therapy in helping with issues related to depression.
Jogging brings other joys that come on the side, like meeting other joggers and running enthusiasts. The running community is very big and there are various sites and forums helping runners become better and more skilled at what they do, offer support and encouragement and share their experiences and struggles. Resources like Jogging Addiction and others are great for getting informed about the best gear and equipment suitable for your running proficiency and preferences.
Having a sense of belonging and acceptance is also very beneficial for mental health, boosting self esteem and confidence. In addition, getting involved into a group of local joggers may be a great motivation for sticking to what you’ve started and not letting down your running buddies.
Next time you feel grumpy, sad and just miserable - try moving, just for a little bit. Make a firm decision and find your will power in order to help yourself be a healthier person in any possible way. There are no bad sides to exercising, keep that in mind. Start slowly but firmly, take up jogging and you will never look back – only to see how far you have jogged your way out of depression.