Five ways to lift yourself up

Published 2:22 pm Friday, September 29, 2017

Depression can be a way of reacting to life’s stressors. The way in which we respond to depression can determine the quality of life. It can also have detrimental impacts.

In 2015, more than 16.1 million adults aged 18 years or older in the U.S. experienced some form of depression. That tallies up to about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population.

Although physicians can prescribe medications to alleviate depression, there is another treatment method that can be prescribed, and that is exercise. Exercise is an effective tool that can be utilized in the fight against depression. Cross-sectional studies have consistently associated high levels of habitual physical activity with better mental health and correlated habitual exercise level with lower rates of depression. Studies have also found that exercise increases serotonin, which is the same brain chemical that antidepressant medications promote.

There are five components of fitness that can be used to decrease depression. These components consist of cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, body composition and flexibility. Each component can be utilized for physiological, as well as psychological benefits.

Cardiorespiratory endurance is the measurement of how the heart, lungs and muscles work together to keep the body active over an extended period of time. By walking, running, using an elliptical trainer, biking or swimming, cardiorespiratory endurance can be improved. Studies have found that cardiorespiratory exercise is inversely associated with the risk of developing elevated depressive symptoms.

Muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle or a group of muscles to repeatedly exert force against resistance. Muscular endurance can be improved by repeatedly working and contracting muscle groups. Examples of exercises that can improve muscular endurance would include performing a plank, body weight squats, push-ups, walking lunges and sit-ups. Another way to improve muscular endurance is to take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Muscular strength refers to the amount of force a muscle or group of muscles can produce with a single maximal effort. Muscle strength can be improved by doing various methods of training. Effective methods of increasing strength include utilizing barbells, dumbbells, resistance machines and body weight. Strength training builds muscles, tendons, ligaments and improves overall bone strength.

When it comes to depression, muscular strength and endurance go hand-in-hand. Studies show that resistance training reduces depressive symptoms in adults 18 years old and older. Resistance training is effective in improving strength, morale and quality of life.

Body composition is used to describe the percentages of fat, bone, water and muscle in the body. Muscle tissue takes up less space than fat and determines leanness. In order to improve body composition and fat mass, lean body mass must be increased. Diet and exercise can maintain and make adjustments to body composition by achieving caloric balance, which is accomplished through good nutrition, strength training and aerobic exercise.

Flexibility is defined as the range of motion of the joint or the ability of the joint to move freely. It also refers to the mobility of the muscles, which allows for more movement around the joints. Flexibility can be improved by performing stretches slightly past the normal, comfortable range of motion. Start out with an initial stretch of 10 to 15 seconds and follow with three or more stretches of 20 to 30 seconds. Yoga is another exercise that improves flexibility. Studies show that depressed individuals who participated in yoga show a reduction in self-reported symptoms of depression.

The five components of exercise not only improve physical health, but mental health, as well. So get out and take that walk or bike ride! Take out some frustration on those dumbbells! Eat better and feel better! Leave yoga class feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the world! You will experience the mind-body connection for yourself.

Russ Sohooli is an exercise physiologist at the Vidant Wellness Center in Washington and can be reached at 252-975-4236.