Boost Your Mood & Combat Depression With One Activity

Man running

Boost your mood after doing this one thing

My ulterior motivator for exercise and health was to combat my inner demons for many years. We all have them, and sometimes, justifying our efforts for weight loss and a healthy lifestyle can cover up the turmoil we feel inside. Although I am a happy and positive person, I have my moments. Don’t we all? Sometimes, we don’t acknowledge that a person has hurt us, or perhaps we hurt ourselves by not living in alignment with our values. 

Sometimes that hurt is directed to our self by the following:

  • Accepting things in our lives that we’re not happy about
  • Motivated by the fear of doing or not doing something
  • Guilt leads our actions
  • Allowing others to take advantage of our time

Mental health is one of the most important gifts you can nurture. Those thoughts that run through our heads govern our actions daily. But, there is one way we can channel our energy for the greater good, better health, well-being and longevity — and that is through exercise itself. Jacob Meyer, a professor of Kinesiology at ISU and lead author, says, “A lot of previous research on the effects of exercise on mental health, in general, have been used comprehensive measures of well-being. What we are interested in specifically, one session of exercise in a day — influences primary symptoms of depression.” During this study, 30 adults were recruited who experienced major depressive episodes. Each participant filled out an electronic survey before and halfway through a 30-minute session of either moderate-intensity cycling and then 25, 50 and 75 minutes post-workout. Participants who cycled were asked to run through the experiment again a week later, with 30 minutes of sitting. Questions within the survey were aimed at standard scales to measure symptoms of depression and cognitive tasks. 

The three significant characteristic changes researchers looked for were the following:

  • Depressed state, such as sad, discouraged or moody
  • Difficulty experiencing pleasure from activities
  • Decreased cognitive functions — difficulty thinking etc

During the cycling stint, participants depressed moods improved after 30 minutes of exercising consistently, up until the 75-minute mark. The improvements in experiencing pleasure from the activity began to drop 75 minutes post-exercise but were still a lot better than the participants who did not exercise. “The cool thing is these benefits to depressed mood state, and lack of pleasure from activities could last beyond the 75-minute mark.  We would need to do extended studies to determine when they start to wane. The results suggest a window of time post-exercise when it may be easier or more effective for someone with depression to do something psychologically or cognitively demanding giving a presentation or taking a test.  Perhaps going to therapy would be another option. We can synergise the short-term benefits of exercise and the clear long-term benefits of therapy to deliver the most effective overall intervention.Meyer says. 

Key takeaways

You may not have been consciously aware of the impact exercise had on your mood during a short or extended period. Perhaps you began to feel a lot happier, more positive and livelier. After a certain amount of time, we become hooked on exercise and begin to make positive associations with it. Therefore, it becomes much easier to commit to continuing making an effort. As I mentioned above, perhaps we start wanting to exercise for various reasons — yet stick to it because it helps us feel good. Many people like to train on a competitive level, testing the body to see how far it can go. Our bodies are very capable of going further than we realise. So testing our limitations and pushing through them is very empowering. There is no denying that exercise is one thing you can do daily to help elevate your mood — and provide relief from depression and anxiety. Although my chosen exercise is weight training, yoga, meditation, running and cycling all provide their benefits. I recommend sticking with something you really enjoy and doing it regularly. That way, you have some form of an outlet you can use during your most challenging moments and know that it will provide you mental, spiritual and psychological relief. Journal References:

  1. Jacob D. Meyer, Thomas A. Murray, Cassandra S. Brower, Gabriel A. Cruz-Maldonado, Maria L. Perez, Laura D. Ellingson, Nathaniel G. Wade. Magnitude, timing and duration of mood state and cognitive effects of acute moderate exercise in major depressive disorder. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 2022; 61: 102172 DOI: 10.1016/j.psychsport.2022.102172

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