Using Exercise to Manage Depression

Quoting an article from the October 4, 2014 online newsletter issue of Emotional Health Daily Newsletter, posted by Everyday Health, Inc., 4 Marshall Street, North Adams, MA 01247
Author: Diana Rodriguez
Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH

A regular exercise routine can help relieve stress and depression. But first you’ll need to find the energy to get started.

There are many ways to manage depression. Therapy and medication are often the mainstays of depression treatment, but simple lifestyle changes, particularly developing and maintaining a regular exercise routine, can benefit people with depression and improve stress management.

There’s little doubt that exercise can be very effective in managing the symptoms of depression — research backs it up, says Erik Nelson, MD, a psychiatrist and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio.

For mild depression, studies show that “exercise can be very helpful in eliminating symptoms for some people,” says Dr. Nelson. “For people with more significant depression, it may not work completely on its own, but can be part of a regimen of treatments.” Exercise can certainly enhance the effects of medication or therapy, he adds.

Experts don’t know exactly how exercise eases stress and depression, Nelson says, but studies suggest it causes biological changes in the brain. It may be that a physiological response to stress, which can worsen depression symptoms, is improved with exercise. Following an exercise routine can also bolster self-esteem, which is important for someone dealing with depression. “Psychologically, it helps people feel better about themselves,” says Nelson.

Many people struggle to find the energy to exercise. For someone with depression, committing to an exercise routine can be even tougher, since a lack of motivation and low energy levels are classic symptoms of depression.

“It’s a paradox — something that could really help, but is hard sometimes for people to initiate,” says Nelson. However, people with depression can develop a successful exercise routine.

Try these tips to find the motivation and energy to start and maintain an exercise routine:

  • Consider exercise part of your treatment. You can ask your doctor or therapist for ideas to make exercise an integral component of your prescribed plan and get advice for sticking with it.
  • Work out with company. Finding a workout buddy or joining an exercise program can be a great motivator, Nelson says. (Our class members can attest to the truth of that advice!) Since people with depression tend to withdraw socially, the social interaction will provide an additional benefit.
  • Start slowly and work your way up. Recognizing your fitness level and setting small, realistic goals is very important for keeping a positive attitude about exercise. Trying to do too much too soon — and being unsuccessful — can be a huge step backward for people with depression. It can “feed into the depression,” Nelson says, whereas gradually building your strength and reaching your goals can create a sense of satisfaction.
  • Do what you can. Experts recommend exercising between four and six days per week for a minimum of 30 minutes each day. If that seems unrealistic for you, start with shorter workout sessions, or work out fewer days. Every step you take and every minute you exercise will benefit your mind and body.
  • Find an activity you enjoy. Yoga and other mind-body exercises are great for people with depression because they work the body while focusing and calming the mind. You can also try playing sports, swimming, hiking, or going for a walk in pleasant surroundings. If you choose an activity that you look forward to, exercising won’t be a chore.
  • Once you’ve started an exercise routine, you’ve overcome a big hurdle. But you have to keep it up to maintain the benefits. Even when your depression symptoms are well-managed, Nelson says, a regular exercise routine will help keep depressive episodes at bay.

Make time for stretching every day!

You can stretch anytime, anywhere — in your home, at work or when you’re traveling. But if you have a chronic condition or an injury, you may need to alter your approach. For example, if you have a strained muscle, stretching it as you usually do may cause further harm. Talk with your doctor or a physical therapist about the best way for you to stretch.

As a general rule, stretch whenever you exercise. If you don’t exercise regularly, you may want to stretch at least three times a week to maintain flexibility. If you have a problem area, such as tightness in the back of your leg, you may want to stretch every day or even twice a day.

Think about ways you can fit stretching into your daily schedule. For example:

  • Stretch before getting out of bed. Try a few gentle head-to-toe stretches by reaching your arms above your head and pointing your toes.
  • Do some stretches after your morning shower or bath. That way, you can shorten your warm-up routine because the warm water will raise muscle temperature and prepare your muscles for stretching.
  • Sign up for a yoga or tai chi class. You’re more likely to stick with a program if you’re registered for a class.

(Advice paraphrased from the Mayo Clinic web site)

 

Good Advice from the Mayo Clinic

The following information is paraphrased from the Mayo Clinic’s web site…

When challenging yourself to create strength and flexibility, change how hard, long and often you work out. The trick is to avoid doing so much that you end up hurt or burned out. Make a smart and safe transition with these tips.

Start by assessing where you’re at now, as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

Consider:
What you already do (exercise mode), including cardio exercise and strength training
How hard you work (intensity)
How often you do it (frequency)
How long you do it (duration)
Set new goals

Next, take a look at specific, realistic goals you can set to improve your fitness level. Maybe you can jog or swim for 45 minutes, rather than 30. Or you could add flexibility exercises into your routine.

Do more
The best way to improve your fitness level is to increase your exercise intensity. Intensity refers to how hard you work. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone will help you to get the most effective results possible. If you exercise at a lower intensity, you’ll need to work out for longer sessions or more often to achieve the same fitness effects. In building up, first increase the frequency of your activity (number of days a week). As you become more fit, increase the length of each workout and finally the intensity.

To increase the intensity of your workout:

Move more briskly. The faster you move your body, the more work you’ll do within a given time.
Increase resistance.
For strength training, gradually lift more weight.

But don’t overdo it!
If you exercise too intensely, you run the risk of an overuse injury or fatigue and burnout. To avoid over-training, increase your total exercise time, distance or intensity gradually. Alternate hard and easy workouts from one day to the next, and build in time for rest and recovery.

Once you’ve reached a new fitness level, take a moment to congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come!

Robin Williams…helping others through humor and kindness

The news coverage surrounding the death of actor Robin Williams took yet another path with a statement provided by his wife, Susan Schneider, that he was diagnosed with early-stage Parkinson’s Disease. We believe sharing her words is important far beyond the details of how he chose to end his life.

“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the front lines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid.” “

Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.” “

Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety, as well as early stages of Parkinson’s Disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly. It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”

Actor Michael J. Fox tweeted Thursday evening that he was “stunned” by the news that Williams had the disease. “Pretty sure his support for our (foundation) predated his diagnosis. A true friend; I wish him peace.” Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991.

A little rain storm didn’t stop our Danvers exercise!

Despite the rain and wind this morning that the weather people warned would cause flash flooding, instructors Linda and Marilyn were joined by new friends Diane, Gayle, Bobbie, Mike, Jack, and Linda C.

The Danvers Senior Center is a lovely facility and we’re pleased to be able to share our program there with such a friendly, enthusiastic, committed group of people. All that swinging, swaying, stepping, and singing made the time go by quickly!

Thanks for all the effort you put in today! We hope you make one of your goals repeated visits in the upcoming weeks…together and individually you can face Parkinson’s challenges with an “I can”, rather than an “I can’t” attitude!

New Danvers friends up and moving!

Instructors Linda and Keith were warmly welcomed at the Danvers Senior Center on Wednesday (July 16th), where they explained, demonstrated, and led a number of exercises for a new group of curious friends.

We’re happy to report that the Parkinson’s Fitness program will now be offered weekly on Wednesday mornings at the center  beginning August 13th from 10:30 to 11:30 AM. If you live or travel in the  Danvers vicinity and have been wanting to find an exercise program geared toward maintaining mobility in spite of Parkinson’s challenges, we’re here to welcome you!

Danvers offers- as does both our Marblehead and Gloucester exercise locations – a busy community center with lots of programs…and Parkinson’s Fitness is proud to be among them! If you want to be part of an upbeat, ability-based,  goal-oriented Parkinson’s exercise program, we’re here for you on Wednesday mornings. Come on in and join us!

Keeping a good thing going and growing!

Linda and Dianna have really enjoyed welcoming a wonderful group of committed people into their class at the Rose Baker Sr. Center in Gloucester each Thursday afternoon!

One of the special joys of offering the program is having people who initially came out of a sense of curiosity now return weekly, as they build confidence in their abilities and work in community with one another.

Wouldn’t it be fun if one day in the future ALL the classes could gather for a one-time combined “meet-and-greet” class in one of the centers. Hmmmm…maybe we’ll think about that after the new Danvers group becomes more familiar with the program!

 

 

See It Through…

While recently reading a copy of poet Edgar A. Guest’s book titled A Heap o’ Livin’ (copyright 1916), the following poem seemed especially appropriate to share:

               See It Through
When you’re up against a trouble,
meet it squarely, face to face;
lift your chin and set your shoulders,
plant your feet and take a brace.
When it’s vain to try to dodge it,
do the best that you can do;
You may fail, but you may conquer…
See it through!

Black may be the clouds about you
and your future may seem grim,
but don’t let your nerve desert you;
keep yourself in fighting trim.
If the worst is bound to happen,
spite of all that you can do,
running from it will not save you…
See it through!

Even hope may seem but futile,
when with troubles you’re beset,
but remember you are facing
just what other men have met.
You may fail, but fall still fighting;
don’t give up, whate’er you do;
eyes front, head high to the finish…
See it through!

Something to try while watching TV…

  1. Sit up tall in a firm, straight-back chair (preferably without arm rests).
  2. With feet flat on the floor, place a weighted ball between the knees (ours happen to be 2 lbs.)
  3. Grasp the edge of the chair near the thighs.
  4. Tighten the knees to hold the ball in place, pull in the stomach muscles, raise knees up  until feet are off the floor, hold for a count of 5, then lower. (Start slowly – try for 5 repetitions.)
  5. If you cannot lift both feet off the ground with bent knees, position the ball (or another object) as described in step 2, and extend legs straight out to the front to whatever height can be achieved. (hold for 5 count – do 5 repetitions to start)
  6. Remember to breathe as you exercise!

 

…down went the bowling pins and up went the scores!

April 30, 2014

We were joined on our return trip to the Peabody Metro Bowl bowling lanes  today by three new friends from the Peabody Parkinson’s support group. We’re happy to report that all of us scored in the double digits and a couple of us even bowled spares!

Good fun and friendship shared…we’re looking forward to going back soon!

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