I consider myself an expert when it comes to exercise. No, I’m not a fitness trainer or an exercise physiologist; my expertise is experiential.
I’ve worked out at least 4 times a week my entire adult life (I’m 51, so yep, long time). I could go on and on ad nauseum on the ways exercise has enhanced all aspects of my life. Certainly, I’ve reaped physical benefits; I’ve never been hospitalized other than when my children were born and I’ve enjoyed relatively good health. But the benefits have gone way beyond merely making me feel better physically and keeping my weight down. Exercise, quite frankly, is the best coping strategy I’ve ever experienced, bar none.
I started exercising back in 1980 as a way to avoid the “freshman fifteen” when I started college — my motivation was vanity. Period. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I realllllyyyy liked how exercise made me feel. I could focus more, so my study routine was given a boost, and I found that I was less stressed overall. Through the years, I’ve walked, run, pedaled or stepped through stressful situations at work, awkward relationship issues, you name it. And while exercising didn’t change the situation, per se, it DID change my perspective on it. More often than not, I came up with solutions to get me through whatever it was that was bothering me during the workout itself.
Since the day I first discovered the psychological and emotional benefits of exercise quite by accident, there have been myriad studies suggesting that exercise helps to alleviate depression. But in an excellent post I recently read (see How To Deal With Depression.by Matt Lockman) I found the whys and hows behind the exercise-mood connection. Some of what I read I already knew, but there was just as much that I was unaware of. One of the most interesting a to me the most is that for every 50 minutes we engage in per week, our risk of depression is reduced by 50%.
That’s right. Your risk of depression with each 50 minutes of exercise per week is reduced by half. When I first read that, my first thought was “that’s great, but I already exercise 3-4 hours a week and this probably refers to people who don’t exercise at all.” Not so. The author goes on to say that if you exercise 5 hours a week, then ramp up to 6 hours, still, your depression risk is cut by half. I find that absolutely amazing. And I absolutely believe it.