If you’re like many teens who suffer from a depressed mood, it might help to know that regular exercise can be a life-changing tool.
If you are experiencing episodes of low mood, you should know that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of teens are depressed at any given time. In fact, research indicates that one of every four adolescents will have an episode of depression during high school, beginning as early as 14 years old. If untreated, periods of depression can last several months and can possibly lead to suicide.
Many teens experience depression or a general low mood, otherwise known as dysthymia. Sadly, psychological health is not well emphasized in society. Psychological health can be easily made discreet. One can look great but feel horrible inside and no one would know. And, psychological illness continues to have a stigma which makes admitting to having a mental illness, seeing a psychologist, or taking psychotropic medication cause for judgment.
Yet, this shouldn’t stop you from seeking the support you need and finding the tools that will help shift your experience. If you have a concern about your mental health (depending upon the severity of your symptoms) you can begin by making exercise a regular part of your day. Exercise in the morning or evening, whatever suits your schedule. However, if you are exercising once per day, you may notice your mood begin to change. You might notice yourself feeling the following benefits:
Physical Benefits of Exercise
- Weight loss and management
- Improves circulation
- Removes toxins from the body through sweating
- Strengthens the heart
- Improved muscle strength
- Boosts energy
- More restful sleep
- Improved circulation
Psychological Benefits of Exercise
- Improved self-image
- Relieves stress
- Improved mood
- Reduces anxiety and depression
- Provides a healthy hobby
- Sharpens mental skills
- Positive feelings surrounding taking care of oneself
Of course, exercise is a powerful form self-care because it has so many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits for the mind and body. In fact, because exercise has so many benefits, researchers are exploring how exercise can specifically facilitate recovery from depression. In fact, recent research indicates that exercise not only helps recover from depression, but it also helps prevent it.
A research study recently published in American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that even moderate exercise could prevent episodes of depression over the long term. The study analyzed 26 years worth of research findings, which revealed that even low levels of physical activity, such as walking for 20-30 minutes per day, can prevent depression.
For instance, physical activity can release endorphins, boost positive feelings, and affect one’s overall mental health. Exercise can also help with the health of the brain, including making new neural connections, which alone can facilitate enduring change. Physical exercise can also be used as a coping mechanism. Whereas in the past, you might have gotten into a fight with one of your parents, now running or walking or doing yoga can be a healthy way to release anger. Vigorous exercise can be the way that you manage the intense emotions that are common with adolescence. Just as the above study indicated, to experience the benefits from exercise, you don’t have to run three miles a day; simply taking a walk regularly can boost psychological health.
The lead researcher described the results of the research by saying:
“It’s definitely worth taking note that if you’re currently active, you should sustain it. If you’re not physically active, you should initiate the habit. This review shows promising evidence that the impact of being active goes far beyond the physical.”
Ongoing physical exercise can facilitate feeling better physically and mentally and easily change a teen’s experience of life.
University of Toronto. (2013, October 28). Moderate exercise not only treats, but prevents depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028163003.htm