How Exercise Fights Depression in Older Adults

By Sarah Kaminski – August 1, 2020

Depression is one of the most common mental health challenges we face today, and it can affect anyone, regardless of age. It’s not a sign of weakness or a character flaw – it’s an illness and should be treated as such.

More than two million Americans above the age of 65 suffer from depression today. However, while treating it can be a challenge, it’s not as impossible as you may think.

What causes senior depression?

The causes of depression in older adults can vary. They can include preexisting depression or preexisting anxiety, the loss of friends or family members, a decline in overall health and abilities or any other challenges that come with getting older.

What can exercise do to help?

Regular exercise is one of the ways you can help ease the symptoms of depression, as it produces several benefits:

-Releases endorphins, also known as “happy hormones,” which can boost your mood and improve your overall wellbeing

-Helps you stop focusing on the negatives that may fuel depression

-Improves your overall health, leading to a better quality of life

-Helps improve your confidence, thus also improving your quality of life

-It is a positive activity, helping you refocus on what you have achieved as opposed to what you haven’t

Do bear in mind that exercise is not a treatment, and it is not a cure – it is simply a tactic you can use to help you with your symptoms of depression.

How much should you exercise?

Thirty minutes a day, three to five times a week should be enough to make your symptoms more manageable. You can also do 10-15 minutes at a time, several times a day.

The key to the positive effects of exercise is remaining consistent — the longer you keep at it, the better you will feel overall.

Tips for making the most out of an exercise routine

Older adults should exercise some general precautions, alongside the general recommendations that everyone should adhere to when taking up a workout routine.

  • Make sure your doctor gives you the green light.
    Depending on your general health and any preexisting conditions, you may need to tailor your new exercise regimen. Check with your doctor about what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
  • Make sure you are safe.
    When exercising, make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard and demanding something extremely strenuous from your body. You can also wear a medical alert device to give you an added sense of security.
  • Do something you actually enjoy.
    There’s no need to make exercise a chore you don’t enjoy. Find something you like to do, whether it’s walking, doing yoga or even a strength training class for seniors. You can go swimming or even play a game with your grandkids – just as long as you get your heart rate up and your body moving.
  • Talk to a mental health professional.
    They can help you not only with mind management but also with finding a routine that will help you get through the day. Find a good therapist with whom you will work out how to eliminate the negativity and toxicity from your mind.
  • Be prepared for setbacks.
    Whenever you start exercising after a longer period of inactivity, there’s bound to be some resistance, from both your body and your mind. When you add depression to that mix, you should expect to not really feel like exercising some or even most of the time. And that’s perfectly okay. Don’t beat yourself up for not being in the mood to work out – just try to get yourself to do it, without being too harsh on yourself or bringing yourself down even more.

Depression is a slippery slope, and feeling like you’ve failed can plunge you deeper down the spiral — don’t make exercise another fuel your mind can use against you.

Final Thoughts

Exercise is one of the best things you can choose to do to improve your overall quality of life. While the results may not be instantaneous, if you give your mind and body enough time to adjust to the new routine, your patience will be rewarded.



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