There is plenty of research supporting the fact that exercise is a great way to reduce depression symptoms. Year after year, people struggle with the winter blues and don’t think to address it with a similar cure. But there is proof that if you suffer from winter blues, exercise may be the only medicine you need to feel great this winter.
It might help if we took the winter blues a little more seriously and called it what it actually is—seasonal affective disorder (SAD). A subset of major depression, this type of depression is linked to the changing of the seasons and lessening of the sunlight.
One of the major ways that is recommended to combat SAD is exercise, and several studies have emerged over the years to back up how effective exercise is in helping individuals manage SAD.
An early clinical trial tested how 120 Finnish employees responded to either supervised exercise and bright lights or relaxation training over an 8-week period. The researchers logged results at the 4-week and 8-week mark, with a 4-month follow-up. While the relaxation training helped with energy levels, the supervised exercise under bright lights had the greatest effect, boosting moods and increasing energy levels.
Further research has pursued to see how effective exercise and bright lights were in treating both non-seasonal depression and seasonally-linked depression. Taking a group of women in the same age group, some were treated with only bright lights and others worked out under supervised conditions with bright lights above.
Those with winter-linked depression responded well to both working out and bright light therapy, while those with non-seasonal depression significantly benefited from the regular exercise. So, if you normally struggle with depression and it deepens during the winter months, exercise is the key to set you free from your depression.
If you aren’t used to working out but want to utilize exercise to help you beat the winter blues, you will need to set fitness-related goals to help you stay focused. Without goals to work toward, it can be easy to become derailed and slip into depression. A good place to start creating goals are:
By implementing practical workout goals, you can successfully launch your fitness journey and beat seasonal affective disorder.
To be completely honest, if you are not currently working out, any kind of workouts will help stave off the winter blues. The studies cited above focused on using aerobic workouts, as they can induce a quick release of endorphins and other mood-boosting hormones. But there are other types of workouts which are effective at keeping you feeling good.
Personally, I mix together 3 days of running—both outside and on my treadmill—and 2 days of heavy weightlifting. These activities complement each other and help keep my workouts engaging so that I stick to my exercise schedule.
Exercise alone isn’t enough to keep you in top condition during the long winter months. In fact, engaging in strenuous workouts while neglecting your nutrition, sleep or other key healthy habits can lead to you become sicker more often this winter. To balance and supplement your winter exercise, you should:
By doing all these things, you will be better prepared to face seasonal affective disorder this winter and beat its effects.
Kevin Jones has mastered a busy lifestyle with work and fitness combined with family life. He writes offering solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and diet.