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Exercise regimens for depression


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I've read about people using exercise to counteract depression, and in my own experience, there's no question that I feel better when I'm exercising regularly. I'm curious about what people do for exercise -- what works best for you -- what combination of intensity/duration -- something repetitive and mindless or something that makes you think -- does time of day matter -- whatever.

I'm doing some aerobics and walking, at least half an hour a day. I'm hoping to ramp it up with weights soon...right now I'm just getting back to my mental baseline and can't believe how weak I feel.

Thanks for your responses.

Boo

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I started walking 6 weeks ago. At first it was 20 min. a day, and it practically killed me. Now I'm doing closer to 30 min a day, and it's not so bad. I'm doing it more for my need to lose weight and get physically healthier.

It's hard to say whether it's affected my mental health; I know I feel better mentally for a couple of hours after a walk.

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Ooh, this a a fave subject of mine. The only thing I have found that has a generalized effect (i.e., it PERMANENTLY lifts mood somewhat, not just for a few hours afterwards), is fairly intense cardio 5 days a week, not easy to get yourself to do no matter who you are. Of course the longer you work out the easier it gets to get yourself to do it, I promise.

I think a depressed person, provided they were able to get themselves to participate, would get the most out of a group class, ideally cardio. I find that working out in a group is a lot more motivating so you don't feel like you have to drag yourself through it plus it's a lot more fun than just sitting on a bike or something. Of course this requires either gym access or the money to take a community class which is not always possible.

If this were not financially possible, I would jog or run outside.

I think the best thing for you is not do what you think you *should* be doing, but what you *want* to do. If you can think of a form of physical activity that interests you you will probably be able to incorporate it into your life in some form. There are lots of no-equipment strength training moves and several no-cost ways to do cardio if that is an issue at all.

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i would ditto the regular GOOD cardio.

i am extremely fortunate to be able to combine mine (a one hour twenty minute hike that has me dripping in sweat) with a 'grounding' experience. it is a steep hike in the forest and the forest relaxes me immensely. i stop on the trail to let my heart slow down, and while i do that i am in a wonderful forest.

i do not enjoy working out in a gym. i can stop at anytime and quit. but when i'm on my hike i can't really stop. if i do i have to go downhill and that kills my knees.

i have no idea what your level of fitness is. if you are rather overweight you would be extremely well advised to go to your gp and get a proper physical done. i just had one and aside from being a somewhat overweight crazy alcoholic i am "in too good a shape so get out of here". that made me smile. aside from the harsh realities.

good luck to you. i very strongly encourage you in pursuing exercise as part of your therapy.

grouse.

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There's a gym right near my house. I went, checked it out, and thought, nahhh. I had a million excuses as to why it wasn't suitable, not the least of which was the fact that the pool looked like it was built 20 years ago, complete with ersatz tacky Roman statues. Buh?

Then a friend of mine said she was joining that gym. She agreed to meet me early in the morning to work out before work. I can't get my ass to work by 10am most days; how the hell would I get to the gym by 7?

It's like hollywood says right there. Not having to do it alone was what made it possible for me to do it. If I've promised my friend I'll meet her at 7, I have to get there. Once I get there, she shows me how to plug the earphones into the TV on the treadmill, how to use the machines.

We usually run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, do some weights, then stretch and go to work. Not having to do it alone, plus the feeling of accomplishment and the early arrival to work, make it worthwhile. The physical benefits are almost secondary.

lily

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After walking on and off for the past 9 months, this week I walked 4 times and yesterday started lifting again.

It has been three years since I have done any lifting and my strength levels have dropped tremendously. I just did bench and squat so far and my levels are about half of what they were 3 years ago. I feel much better after aerobic exercise, but after lifting, I feel better for several days.

Now I just have to start my practicing for the Highland Games and I'll have a good, well-rounded, full-body workout plan.

Tommy

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I walk over two miles a day to work and back, and have been trying to either jog for ten minutes or lift weights every day after work. I also do a three-hour martial arts class once a week.

I wish exercise helped lift my depressed moods. Even a little bit.

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i do pilates twice a week and walk 3xs a week (w/ a heart rate monitor... i hate the term power walking but i guess that's what it is.)

i like the pilates better and i think it lifts my mood more. it requires all of my attention to make sure i'm doing the moves right so i can't ruminate over things. break from thoughts + endorphins = smile.

i think the most important thing is to find something that you enjoy doing. if it feels like torture and makes you grumpy, you won't do it as often and well, you'll be grumpy. i personally can't stand exercise machines so i've never been able to stick to a gym routine. but other people love it.

i guess what i'm trying to say is: what kind of exercise do you like?

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Thanks for your responses. I, too, found in the past that cardio is the way to go for a good mood lift -- it's just so damned unpleasant. There's no enjoyment in it for me, I just have to tell myself that I'm doing it for my mental and physical health and take it like medicine.

Boo

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I'm with ya, Boo. I've been walking since November, and daily since March. I walk on a friend's land, a beautiful piece of property with mountain views, ponds, and wildlife like you wouldn't believe. My legs have gotten stronger, and my lungs and my heart.

Do I like it? No. Do I have to force myself to do it? Yes. It has become a concrete law for me--I can't miss my walk unless it's dangerously storming---like lightning.

And every sweaty day that I do it, I keep hoping that someday I will LIKE it. Don't like it yet. Doubt if I ever will. But I feel like I have to do it or turn into a bigger, fatter lump than I already am.

sigh.

Too bad there isn't a "fit and slim" pill. I'd buy them by the caseload.

olga

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After a year and a half of my pdoc telling me to exercise, I started walking in February.

20 minutes at first and well tired at that. Eventually I've worked up to 3.5 miles or about an hour of fairly high speed pacing. It takes a day or so but I do feel better, a little more energy and a mental lift.

A bit of weight lifting is always a good thing for any exercise program, and I have been doing it occasionally. One pointer I learned as I got older. Weight lifting should not hurt. If it does I'm doing it too hard. I do 10 -12 reps, 3 sets of a weight that I can comfortably do. If I start straining to complete the lift, I drop down to the next lower weight.

The one thing that helps me endure the long boring walking is my mp3 player. A study several years ago found that exercisers put out 20% more effort when listening to music, any music, from Mozart to Moby.

I got tired of my music mix, and found that NPR has shows available for download. Now, I can't pickup NPR inside my house so I downloaded tons of Science Friday shows. Nothing like exercising the brain while exercising the body.

Cheers,

a.m.

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Well I feel like the Mega geek here. I have a hard time dealing with people and sometimes can't leave my house, but I'm trying to dope the doodoo out of myself and go to the gym that I have a membership at as many times a week as I possibly can. I just love cardio work outs ;) . I just did 22.7 miles in about an hour on the lifecycle and then did about another hour on the various leg, arm and bum machines. I'm not losing weight yet thanks to my blinky thyroid and the Seroquel, but it's getting easier to do the hour of cycling and I'm slowly changing shape(re-distributing the lard :) ) it helps over all but I'm still having a lot of depression episodes. I've only been at this for a couple of months though, so time will tell. I usually feel better for a few hours after I've exercised hard though.

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A bit of weight lifting is always a good thing for any exercise program, and I have been doing it occasionally. One pointer I learned as I got older. Weight lifting should not hurt. If it does I'm doing it too hard. I do 10 -12 reps, 3 sets of a weight that I can comfortably do. If I start straining to complete the lift, I drop down to the next lower weight.

Another thing for older folk, if you go for low heavy reps, recovery takes longer than it once did. It might take 7-10 days to recover when lifting for a major body part (i.e. deadlifts or squats), but you can still increase the weight you lift and make more muscle tissue to burn calories all day long. Now, I haven't lifted, until last week, since 2003, when I was 48, but I suspect it will still apply.

Tommy

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Yoga.

Yoga is great, if you can do it. But I think aerobic exercise is better for depression. Yoga is good if you're anxious and need to calm yourself.

I can't lift weights: I end up with muscles. ick.

olga

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Olga,

Muscles on women are not usually ick. Open your mind on that topic a bit. Unless it's like you're taking steroids or something. Muscles burn extra calories, too, just by existing. And getting stronger feels like getting more powerful, doesn't it? I admit that, since I'm a guy, I didn't have to struggle against all those cultural messages back when I lifted. But I've admired women who worked out and had some nice muscles. One (or several, really) of many attractive ways for women to be. (My current s.o. is more or less sedentary and quite overweight, but she looks good to me.) I wish you could have seen this woman who walked into a local store recently. Hard as nails, looked like she could run 10 miles and do chinups, and maybe some martial arts, but with a figure. Bright red, short hair and a frilly, short, frivolous dress. Attractive, and funny, and a spectacle. Dismay and confusion for the narrow minded. Someone, under the right circumstances, to ask for a date. But respectfully! Sigh. Given my luck, she wasn't hetero. But I'm all set anyway.

My favorite exercise is now bicycling. Mostly on the road, but I've delved into mountain biking. For some reason, I think I like that more with other people. Maybe it engages my repressed showoff side, since I'm a bit nuttier in the things I try than the other people who show up in the particular groups I've tried. Often I end up laughing and falling down, but for a guy my size I seem to fall pretty well. A couple of months ago I tried to jump something on the trail, slammed into it instead, and ended up balanced on the front wheel (i.e. nosed over 90 degrees) for a second or two before tipping over. Enough time to start laughing. But mostly I go on the road. Typically for an hour. I have over 15,000 miles on my exercise bike (ok, it's 20 years old), but it's much harder to stay on it for very long.

I used to like sculling. (On single sculls.) If you let go of the oars for a second, you end up upside down, but it's not really that hard and the glide is magical. They feel pretty fast for something on the water. I can't do it anymore, tho I like fixed seat rowing. Not really that much exercise, tho.

I used to do Nautilus and such. At least 12 reps, tried to be very steady on the lifts instead of cheating to lift more plates. I get big and strong pretty easily, but I'm afraid it'll mess up my back, it costs money, and it's not all that fun. OTOH, it was fun back when I could pick up two bags of cement at the same time, jump up three stairs at a time (two feet at a time, but NOT with those bags of cement, I'd only jump up one or two stairs if I was carrying that much weight, until the poor guy said uncle), pick up my six foot date and carry her around, etc. My clothes didn't fit right, particularly t-shirts. Also fun, if you're like me to eat two breakfasts, two lunches, two big snacks, and a supper every day. While losing weight. Sigh....

If I had a big hill near me, I'd probably exercise like Grouse Mouse does. Hills are fun.

Exercise elevates my mood, but on some occasions when I've been depressed it didn't work that way. But I still did it out of habit. I feel a bilt like a lazy slob today because I've only been swimming for 20 or 30 minutes. Fortunately, I'm not an efficient swimmer when keeping my head above water to talk, so it was SOME exercise.

Swimming is good because if you're determined and don't get bored, you can get to a high intensity pretty fast without injury. I don't mean on the first or second day.

Unfortunately, I'm not in as good shape as it sounds. I ought to weigh 30 lbs less. And, perhaps due to heart meds, I'm not as fast as I ought to be.

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ldo:

I'm 5'9", broad-shouldered, and small-hipped. Ten years ago I joined a gym (first mistake) and they taught me to do the Nautilis circuit. I am one of those 2% of women who don't "tone up"---I put on muscle. In 6 weeks, I added an inch to my back and half an inch to each thigh....and I don't find that attractive. Sorry. I think muscles look good on men, not on women. With muscles, I look like a broad-shouldered.....guy.

And I'm strong without muscles. I spend my life hefting straw bales, 50-pound bags of feed and wheelbarrows full of clay: I don't particularly want to be stronger. I'm interested in exercising my lungs and heart. I'm heading towards 60 and I don't have dimples in the backs of my legs, or floppy underarms like a lot of other women. But I still don't want defined biceps and triceps. ick.

I hate going up my hill (on foot). But I can feel my heart slamming in my chest, so I guess it's helping.

I wish I liked this stuff. It's so much more fun to read a book.

olga

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am on enforced diet & exercise for my depression. Though lately I have been too depressed to do any...

Here is what I am supposed to do (it helps when I do it):

Daily

20 mins yoga stretching/relaxation

20 mins cycling

Weekly

Gym:Cardio/ weights - 3 times a week.

Bern

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Add me to the list of "don't like it, but gotta do it." With a various assortment of connective tissue disorders, and failed back surgery syndrome, it's difficult for me but I CAN walk. And after a recent flare of rheumatoid arthritis that rendered me incapacitated, I was struck with a sense of urgency that if I don't "do this now," that is, get fit; I might lose my chance forever.

It skert me. I have to be skert to change, cuz I'm a lazy slacker, reformed dope fiend, take the easy way kind of person.

I should consider myself lucky that I got away with that for 43 years, until my surgery 2 years ago. I did whatever I wanted, lift that barge, tote that bale.

Meh. Just do it.

Besides, I wanna be *hot* like Olga when I'm pushing 60. Each decade seems a bit harder to *push*. ;)

S9

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