Column Post by Beth Cranford
If you’re depressed, or you’ve experienced depression in the past, I have a question for you: Are you exercising regularly?
I was told several years ago that exercise would help with depression. I started exercising but never really made it a priority. I was too busy. I didn’t have a treadmill. I couldn’t afford the gym. It’s always either too hot or too cold to walk outside. Pilates in my living room got boring after a while.
Well, you get the picture. I wasn’t exercising. I just didn’t know how powerful it is.
Scientists have now proven that regular moderate exercise increases the activity of mood enhancing chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. These are the very chemicals targeted by popular antidepressant drugs. In His amazing wisdom and mercy, God has divinely programmed our bodies to balance their own chemicals through exercise!
Many studies now show that regular exercise is more effective in the fight against depression than antidepressant drugs.
Studies also show that while the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs decreases over time, and people using them have a strong likelihood of recurrence, people who exercise regularly (and do not take antidepressants) do not experience nearly as high a rate of depression returning.
Unacknowledged stress causes depression. Exercise addresses stress.
Have you ever read about the “fight or flight” response and the amazing cascade of chemical reactions that occur when a person is under sudden stress? Your body undergoes incredible changes to prepare you for an intense burst of physical activity, perceiving that you are about to engage in a physical battle or a difficult escape. Changes occur in your brain, lungs, muscles, blood, liver, and immune system, to name a few. Even your sleep changes if your body doesn’t detect that the danger is over. (You were designed to sleep lightly when your brain detects danger. How amazing is that?)
The trouble is, in our modern society we seem to be under more stress than ever with fewer ways to “fight or flee.” When we exercise regularly, we send a signal to our brains that indicates we’ve fought the fight and it’s OK to call off the chemical army. Conversely, when we don’t get enough exercise, the chemical reaction to stress never gets a chance to rest and turns into a recipe for depression and other health risks.
Thankfully, I now understand the importance and power of regular exercise. I see it as a necessity, not something that gets worked in after everything else. I can truly say I feel less burdened. My mind has felt clearer and more focused. I’m less sleepy. I entertain fewer negative thoughts. I have more courage and energy to do new and difficult things.
Are you ready to get serious about fighting depression? What will you do this week to establish a routine that involves regular moderate exercise? Share with us in the comments so we can cheer you on!
For more info on the studies noted above, see this article.
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Beth Cranford believes every Christian has been equipped and empowered to do specific and effective work in the kingdom of God. It is her heart’s desire to see women live in the freedom that is theirs through Christ by helping them break free from depression and other strongholds. She encourages women to experience God’s power in their lives by understanding their identity and position in Christ and their unique design.
Beth has a passion for helping Christian parents design and implement an education that honors and nurtures their children’s individual design, equipping them for a life of freedom and power.
Beth has been married to her best friend for 21 years. Together they raise and educate their two children in middle TN. You can find her at http://www.bethcranford.com
Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)