Evidence shows that exercise can be used to treat depression

Depression is common among Australia’s senior population, but exercise can help.

man exercising

Depression is common among Australia’s senior population. In fact, around 10–15 per cent of older people deal with depression, and approximately 10 per cent experience symptoms of anxiety.

There is extensive evidence that shows exercise can treat and even prevent mental illnesses like depression. This is because physical activity boosts feel-good endorphins and mood-lifting serotonin.

The Black Dog Institute explains that everyone can benefit from exercising their mood, with research showing even small amounts of exercise can be both mentally and physically beneficial.

Exercising can reduce stress hormones, improve sleep, increase feelings of control and distract from worry.

Here are six tips to try and exercise your mood.

1. Start at your own level
We all start somewhere and if you are new to exercise, set small goals and build your way up to a bigger goal like 30 minutes of exercise per day. If you already have a set exercise regime, you can use that as a first step to something new. A good one to try is meditation, which can improve relaxation and concentration.

2. Find a time of the day that suits you
You don’t skip brushing your teeth because you’re not in the mood, and you should think about your exercise regime in the same way. Even on a rainy day, you can do yoga or meditation exercise indoors. One study found that even a single session of mindful exercise (like yoga) can improve mood and reduce stress.

3. Choose activities that you enjoy
You do not have to go to the gym and lift weights unless you want to. There are plenty of other exercising options available. Whether you like bush walking, swimming, kite surfing, Pilates or walking the dog, even 10 minutes of physical exercise daily is proven to have a positive impact on both your mental and physical health.

4. Reward yourself
When you reach a milestone of some sort, even if it is an extra 500m on your daily walk, tell someone who will celebrate it with you.

5. Give yourself a break
If you miss one session, one day or one week, do not be too hard on yourself. You can pick up where you left off and refocus on the goals that you have set for yourself.

6. Take your friends along
If you are living with a mental illness, it can be difficult at times to socialise; however, asking a friend to join you in physical activity is a great way to keep motivated. It gives you the chance to share an experience with someone while keeping your plans accountable to one another.



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    14th Sep 2017
    As a live alone pensioner with most relatives deceased, I find it a daily battle, but everyone has to find their own level. Just make the first goal for the day an easy one and write things down so you are not depending on a foggy brain to get started.

    I manage quite well because I have spent a lot of my life alone, but I feel sorry for those who have had a lot of family life and are suddenly alone and depressed in their later years.
    14th Sep 2017
    Yes Charlie. It is so easy to say do this, do that. When you have friends and family around there is no need to have to push oneself to be motivated. There is no doubt that age and ill health put apathy on the left shoulder and lethargy on the right.
    If you are carer it is even harder as time and motivation is stolen from you and the clock ticks by as you can do so little.
    I would have to say my dog, while having stretched my arm length considerably, has been a wonderful addition. We go to the off leash park everyday and the other dog owners and I solve all the world's issues and chat about our dogs personalities. Its a wonderful no obligation activity - and its free. ( Not including the cost of a dog)
    14th Sep 2017
    Rosret, it's even better if your companion is a rescue dog from the local pound. Their enthusiasm cannot help but be warming to the soul.
    14th Sep 2017
    :) JJ
    14th Sep 2017
    I see several dog owners on my morning coffee walk. One lady has just reached 80yo
    14th Sep 2017
    Exercise is a big help with depression and anxiety it also helps with weight control reduces the likelihood of many preventable diseases and generally keeps you young. There's even been some suggestion it may also help keep your brain active. Do what you can there's nothing to lose.
    14th Sep 2017
    donating time to charities, e.g Vinnies, Salvos not only makes you feel like you have made a difference to others, but the companionship and friendships made are very uplifting. Spending time in introspection is not constructive if prone to the blues or worse. While I know that for many this is not possible for lots of reasons but if there is someone else you could help, no matter how then that will help you too.

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