Exercise is important to all aspects of our health. Daily exercise helps slim the waistline, keeps us fit, reduces the chances of heart disease and high blood pressure, helps us sleep better, and gives us more energy. Thirty minutes of exercise daily will rev up the metabolism and improve moods.
Exercise is also important for our mental health. Moving our bodies releases neurotransmitters and endorphins which are known as “feel good” chemicals. It also reduces chemicals that can cause depression to worsen. Working out improves our appearance, which helps boost confidence.
Stress has been known to cause depression in people and animals. Mice were put to the test in a study done in Stockholm. After 5 weeks of putting the mice in some mild stressful situations, they showed signs of depression. Doctors know that exercise before stress occurs reduces depression due to an enzyme produced known as PCG-1alpha1, so they bred mice that contained high levels of that enzyme. They then exposed these mice to 5 weeks of stress, and while they showed signs of worry, they did not become fully depressed. Continuing the study on people, those put through 3 weeks of endurance training showed high levels of the enzyme in their muscles, proving the theory that exercise reduces depression.
While that is great news, those who struggle with long-term depression, chronic pain, arthritis, and high amounts of stress, have a difficult time just finding the motivation to begin to exercise. Fibromyalgia sufferers have pain in all parts of the body, making basic movement difficult, let alone jogging, or riding a bike. Those with fibromyalgia are three times more likely to have depression, much of it having to do with the length of time it takes to diagnose. Fibromyalgia is not well understood and hard to treat. Compounded with chronic pain and fatigue sufferers tend to withdraw from friends, have more anxiety, and exercise less.
Frozen shoulder is another issue that has not been studied in depth and is misunderstood. It often occurs for no reason, and causes capsules surrounding the joint in the shoulder to shrink and form scar tissue. This causes lowered range of motion and pain. There are three stages to frozen shoulder: freezing, frozen, and thawing. The freezing stage causes pain and limited range of motion, pain and motion decreases during the frozen stage, and the shoulder begins to improve during the thawing stage. Each stage can last up to 6 months, so this is around 18 months of pain and limited range of motion, which causes depression and inactivity.
Exercise does not have to be painful, grueling, boring, or cringe-worthy. Finding an activity you enjoy is the first step. Start small, do little things like walking around the block, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther from the door in a parking lot, washing the car, or pulling weeds. Anything that gets you moving around will greatly improve your mood, and help you feel better in and out.