By BeActive NC
Winter got you feeling the blues? You’re certainly not alone. Fewer daylight hours, frigid temperatures and hectic schedules combine to leave many of us feeling dreary. In fact, more than 20 million Americans suffer from some level of seasonal depression, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
If you’re feeling down in the dumps, your daily pre-dawn workout may sound like torture. However, exercise is the best remedy for a sour attitude – it improves mood, helps relieve depression and increases feelings of well-being.
“A myriad of research shows that people feel better after physical activity, regardless of intensity,” said Wally Bixby, Associate Professor of Exercise Science at Elon University. “Several studies have even shown exercise to be as effective in treating depression as drug therapy.”
One of these studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, compared physical activity to Zoloft (a commonly prescribed antidepressant medication). Patients who were physically active showed the same amount of improvement as those who took the medication, but the patients who exercised felt a greater sense accomplishment. They reported higher self-esteem and self-confidence, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.
Strikingly, a follow-up study showed that people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of their original treatment, were much less likely to relapse into depression.
Bixby, who specializes in research related to exercise and mood, points out a few key ways to stay consistent with your workouts and beat the winter blues.
Set a goal or sign up for a race to provide extra motivation.
Choose an exercise that you enjoy and perform it at an intensity that doesn’t leave you dreading your next workout.
Exercise outside during lunch or on the weekend to soak up some sun.
Plan some workouts with a friend or join your local running club.
Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers numerous health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. So, even on the coldest, most miserable days this winter, remember to hit the pavement or visit your local gym. Your body and mind will thank you!
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Be Active North Carolina is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting physical activity and healthy lifestyles across the state. For more information on physical activity and all of its many benefits, visit www.beactivenc.org.