A recommendation for using exercise and diet to combat depression and the sedentary lifestyle it tends to bring about.
Depression often causes many who suffer from the disorder to develop a sedentary lifestyle (State, 2012.). A sedentary lifestyle can be defined as way of living that requires less than 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most days of the week according to ReferenceMD.com. Not only is a sedentary lifestyle a symptom of depression, it can also cause depression to worsen.
Exercise causes the body to release endorphins which are neurotransmitters that act as the body’s natural “feel good” drug (Busch, 2011.). These endorphins generate feelings similar to those related to the use of morphine but without the risk of addiction. They act as analgesics and sedatives able to diminish the feeling of pain as well as calm a person down. Regular exercise can also help to reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem and general outlook on life, and improve sleep. A lack of regular physical activity limits this supply of endorphins and can cause depression to set in or worsen (Busch, 2011.). (Depression, n.d.).
During bouts with depression, those inflicted may find it hard to even get out of the bed on most days much less exercise. Since depression makes it difficult for those affected by it to get motivated to do physical activity, small goals must be set that can be easily obtained at first. This could be a simple short walk around the block daily. It can also be as simple as washing the car by hand, gardening, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator (Mayo, 2011.). According to the Depression Health Center on WebMD.com, the following moderate exercise are also great for people suffering from depression: biking, dancing, golf, house and yard work, jogging at a moderate pace, low-impact aerobics, playing tennis, swimming, and Yoga. People with depression may also find it beneficial to join a class, an exercise group, or enlist a friend or family member as an exercise partner. This will allow them to benefit from the social interaction as well as the physical activity. (Depression, n.d.).
To ensure that the exercise plan is adhered to, the planned activity must be one that is enjoyable and convenient to the participants. This could be as simple as trying new exercise classes until the perfect fit is found and making sure that expensive equipment isn’t necessary. Most important is for them to remember to stick to the exercise program no matter what as it gets easier and helps more and more as time goes on. (Greenlaw, n.d.).
Food choices can also be a factor in a person’s mood and mental health. Eating the wrong foods during a bout with depression can actually help to increase fatigue and irritability, while the right foods can help to eliminate mood swings and increase neurotransmitters. A diet rich in B vitamins can help decrease the symptoms of depression by improving the transmissions of signals by neurotransmitters in the brain which help to govern mood. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a 2010 study found that those with lower B vitamin intakes had higher risks for depression. Examples of foods high in B vitamins are: eggs with the yolk, lean beef, wheat germ, fish, and poultry. (Spencer, n.d.).
Adding foods high in magnesium and complex carbohydrates can also help with depression as they help trigger the production of serotonin. This is a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood, appetite, sleep, and memory (Salter-Pedneault, 2009.). Nuts including pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, and peanuts as well as green leafy vegetables and whole grains are great sources of magnesium. Ancient grains including quinoa, millet, teff, amaranth, spelt, and barley are great sources of complex carbohydrates. Cold water fish are also a great choice as they contain the omega-3 fatty acid DHA which helps to increase gray matter in the areas of the brain that affects mood. These areas are known to have less gray matter in severely depressed people. (Spencer, n.d.). Green tea is also a great choice as it contains L-theanine, an amino acid that produces a calming effect on the human body.
For many people fighting with depression, it seems like a losing battle. Once one falls into it, it is hard to pull themselves out. Depression produces a sedentary lifestyle that in turn helps the depression to thrive. Those suffering from depression must strive daily just to do what others do so easily. It is important that they know that there are some simple steps concerning physical activity and eating habits that can truly change their life if certain behaviors are improved.
1. Busch, J. (2011). The Link Between a Sedentary Lifestyle and Depression. Primer Magazine. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from http://www.primermagazine.com/2011/learn/depression-exercise
2. Depression Health Center. (n.d.). Exercise and Depression: Endorphins, Reducing Stress, and More. WebMD. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression
3. Greenlaw, E. (n.d.). Getting Started: Exercise for Depression. WebMD. Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/features/exercise
4. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2011, October 1). Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms. MayoClinic.com. Retrieved July 13, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/depression-and-exercise/MH00043
5. RES Inc. (n.d.). Sedentary Lifestyle (definition). Reference MD. Retrieved July 12, 2013, from http://www.reference.md/files/D057/mD057185.html
6. Salter-Pedneault, PhD, K. (2009, December 27). What is Serotonin – Definition of Serotonin. About.com. Retrieved July 14, 2013, from http://bpd.about.com/od/glossary/g/serotonin.htm
7. Spencer Scott, P. (n.d.). 5 Foods to Eat When You’re Depressed. MSN Healthy Living. Retrieved July 15, 2013, from http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/depression/5-foods-to-eat-when-youre-depressed-18
8. State Government of Victoria. (2012, March). Depression and exercise. Better Health Channel. Retrieved July 12, 2013, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Depression_and_exercise