Saturday, June 11, 2011

Depression & Running / 6 Benefits of Running |

Most of you know that I consider myself a runner. In the last two and half years I have ran 8 half marathons and three 10-mile races. I average 20 miles a week and do all my running workouts at the crack of dawn while my kids and husband are asleep. Why, as a working mom, so I get up at 5:15 AM most days of the week to run at 6 AM? It's simple.... because I need to!

What some of you may not know is that I suffer from hormonal depression. It came on strong when I was about twenty or twenty-one years old. I got it under control with the help of my acupuncturist. Once under control, I didn't have any issues with it until I had children. It actually hit it's worst in April 2010. Now, a year later, I have it under control again, BUT I have to work really hard to keep it under control.

So how do I keep my depression under control -
1) I run! Running, or any form of exercise done on a regular basis, over an extended period of time, helps decrease depression. And for anyone reading this who is afraid of or intimidated by running, you do not have to run to receive the benefits. It's any aerobic activity done for 180 minutes or more a week.

2) I watch what I eat. When I feel depression coming on, I want to grab my comfort foods (chocolate, ice cream, chips). Instead I try (I say try because I'm far from perfect!) to grab something healthy instead. I also try to make sure that it has some protein in it. Excessive carbohydrates do not help my depression.

3) I stay away from alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant. The last thing I need when I'm feeling like my depression is going to rear it's ugly head to to give my already "sad" system a depressant.

4) I work hard, with the support of my husband, to keep my stress to a minimum. If I tell him I need a break from the stress of noise and kids, he immediately says "okay what can I do to help?" or "okay, leave the house and go do something!". I also limit my interactions with extended family and friends when they are in large groups because the noise and stress is too much to handle sometimes. This has caused some tension with my extended family as they have not always understood why I needed to do what I was doing, but it's getting better.

5)I carve out "me time" each week. I do this with my running schedule (I run with at least one friend every time I go out for a run), I have a regular coffee &/or breakfast date with friends each week, and I will allow myself time to sit in the house, home alone, and enjoy the silence with a book (even if there's chores to be done. They will still be there an hour later!).

6)Lastly, I talk about my depression. When I'm having a difficult time, I call or text a friend. I have a small handful of friend whom I can rely on for anything. They have always been there for me, without judgement, no matter what frame of mind I have been in. I know I can count on them to help me in any way I need. Being able to talk about how I'm feeling and why, helps me process what's really going on.

So why I am sharing all of this with you on my blog? Because...
1) If more people were able to talk about their depression I think it would be easier for everyone around them to understand what was going on.

2) There's a link below to a great article on the health benefits of running - and one of those benefits is, of course, a decrease in depression. But it's one thing to read an article about it, and another to know someone's own personal story in regards to the issue.

6 Benefits of Running |

One more thing I would like to share. The results of some of the more recent studies on depression and exercise...

It's the amount of time spent on the activity that helped decrease the symptoms of depression, not a specific activity. As I mentioned above, the best results were seen from study groups that did 180 minutes or more of cardiovascular activity each week. That's about 30 minutes a day! It could be walking, jogging, running, swimming or biking. And if you're cross-training appropriately, the best time breakdown for your routines should be 70% of your time spent on cardiovascular activity, 20% on strength training and 10% on stretching/flexibility.

Another study compared three groups -
1) medication only
2) medication and exercise
3) exercise only
The group who saw the most decrease in their depression symptoms, in the beginning, was Group 2 (medication and exercise). However, six months later, the group who was still seeing improvements, and were experiencing the least amount of depression symptoms was Group 3 (exercise only).

So on that note.... Three Cheers For Exercise!!!!

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