How to Motivate Yourself to Work Out
When You Are Depressed
By Lavera Stewart
Intro - Exercise and sport help our well-being
Exercise is good for both people with and without depression. Recent studies have investigated the effectiveness of sport and exercise in depression. Initial results suggest that strength training or a combination of endurance and strength training can help patients with depression. Studies suggest that exercise is as effective as antidepressant treatment or psychotherapy – that should already serve as a great motivator to start your exercise, even if it's a step by step process.
At the moment, however, the only certainty is that exercise has a positive effect on well-being. The studies currently available are regarded as insufficient scientific evidence that sport and exercise alone are effective against depression. Exercise and sport can be combined with other treatment options such as psychotherapy or medication.
Studies and Clinical Trials
Exercise lifts the spirits not only of passionate athletes, but also of people with depression. However, due to illness, it is particularly difficult for the latter to motivate themselves to engage in regular activities. A meta-analysis in the trade journal "Depression and Anxiety" shows how much they have to train to feel better: three quarters of an hour each week for a month - and then the mood rises.
The data come from clinical trials in which more than 450 adult patients were treated with medication and/or psychotherapy on an outpatient or inpatient basis. Some of them were randomly selected and invited to exercise regularly under supervision in addition to the rest of the treatment. As a result, the depression values of these subjects decreased considerably more than those of the control groups without training. To get to that point of being motivated enough, it might take reading about success stories such as the one of the people who were randomly selected in the before mentioned test.
As reported by the team around the sports psychologist Yannis Theodorakis from the University of Thessaly, the training was effective regardless of the severity of the depression and the type of sport, although it was all moderate physical activity such as jogging or cycling. On average, the training lasted more than nine weeks, but the four-week programs also had a strong effect.
However, the antidepressant effect of sport is controversial. There are already indications of its mode of action, for example via the neuronal growth factor BDNF in the brain. But health researchers at the University of Copenhagen explained in 2017 in the "British Medical Journal" that the evidence was methodically attackable: Above all, positive results were published and the antidepressant effects were consequently overestimated. An older research survey by the independent Cochrane Collaboration came to the conclusion that methodologically robust studies only showed a small effect.
Here is a list of effects, which exercise and sport can have:
- Can have a positive influence on the mood and also the workout motivation
- Have a positive effect on health and well-being, e.g. endorphins (substances produced by the body that promote joy and reduce pain) are released and the stress hormone cortisol is reduced.
- Can be easily implemented without having to find a doctor or therapist, for example
- Can be combined with other treatment options such as psychotherapy or medication
Future scientific work will hopefully provide evidence on the following aspects:
- Which sports and forms of training are (most) effective?
- Is it better to train in a group, under professional guidance or alone?
- How long, how intensive and how often do you have to do sports before the first results are achieved?
- What should be done to ensure that the positive effect lasts in the long term?
- What risks, for example excessive demands, does this therapy approach entail?
- And: Do the same recommendations apply to all patients with depression - regardless of the severity of the disease?
What to do in the meantime?
Many details about the possible benefits and risks of sport in depression are still open. Depression sufferers should therefore discuss this with their doctors and psychotherapists. The goal: an individual clarification as to whether and which sports are suitable - and which expectations are realistic.
It would be highly desirable to develop further effective therapy modules with the help of sports activities for daily use. After all, every fifth person suffers from depression in the course of their lives; relapses often occur. Typical signs include listlessness, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Although depression causes much suffering and can lead to suicide, many people do not receive treatment. One of the reasons: Depression is still taboo, even though it occurs so often, making it difficult for people to seek professional advice and help.
Implementing a training plan over a longer period of time is difficult for many. Fitness apps can create the necessary organization and planning.
Concluding Words on the Topic of Workout and Depression
In fact, the summarized results of previous studies show that exercise is likely to relieve depression somewhat. However, one should not expect miracles from targeted exercise. On average, regular endurance or weight training can probably improve the symptoms of depressed people by one point on a scale of one to ten. This effect could be greater for some, but smaller for others.
To motivate yourself to exercise it might take more than for someone who is not suffering from depression but there are always ways to get the best out of a person – it might be the numbers speaking for sport as an anti-depressant or the success stories of other patients who managed to feel better with regular exercise.
Lavera Stewart from gym-expert.com is an advocate of eating healthy for a better life. Not at all an evangelist in the domain, she likes to research various studies on all things related to nutrition and the way proteins, fibers, and fats interact for a balanced life. It goes perfectly with her passion for writing because he can share the topics he loves with the rest of the world and spark interesting conversations.