How has low mood affected your physical activity levels, and your ability to do the things you really enjoyed? Have you found that over time you have become more and more tired, the fatigue making it seem impossible to will yourself to be any more active than you are?
Maybe your medication has made you put on weight, making you feel selfconscious about exercising. The thought of having to socialise or visit new and public places to exercise may make you anxious, agitated and unable to control the environment. Or maybe you are simply just not interested in being more active.
These are all normal and real concerns, even barriers to being more active when suffering from low mood. Becoming more active – from whatever baseline – is the most important treatment for persistent fatigue as it helps with body conditioning and boosts energy levels. It can be a way to take back control of your body. Being active is an important adjunct to managing low mood. Activity won’t cure you but it will help with recovery. Being active can be as important as taking medication in cases of mild to moderate low mood.
The benefits you will feel from being more active are:
1. Improved sleep: Poor sleep patterns are a vicious cycle, leading to fatigue and decreased energy levels and less motivation resulting in less activity. This leads to social isolation and poor daily routine, which all feeds back into poor sleep. Being more physically active helps you become more sociable, gives you better energy levels, less fatigue and better motivation, all of which lead to a better daily routine and improved sleep. 2. Improved self-confidence: Improvement may be a result of the combination of improved sleep, healthy weight maintenance and controlled appetite. Physical activity helps you feel better about your body and your physical capabilities which all lead to an improved sense of self-esteem and self-worth. 3. Improved mood: The antidepressant effects of exercise have been well-studied and show significant improvements in mild and also more severe states of low mood. Mood may be improved by activity because of the release of endorphins, happy hormones, but also through increased motivation and socialising, as well as decreased anxiety – essentially improving your quality of life. 4. Reduced social isolation: Getting out and about to be physically active will help you feel less socially isolated. Even just a nod and a smile can make us feel better in ourselves. 5. Less tiredness and improved energy levels: The more you do, the more energy you will have and the less tired you will be. This may sound crazy when the thought of doing any activity makes you exhausted and, yes, the first week or so may be a little challenging, but as your body adapts and more endorphins are released (such as serotonin a happy, feel-good hormone), you will start to feel the change. 6. Reduced stress levels: Exercise can improve physiological stress responses and reduce the levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, can hurt you more than it helps. Over time, high levels may cause weight gain and high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce your energy levels and even contribute to diabetes. Even a single exercise session can improve mood, reduce stress and improve energy levels. 7. Improved motivation: Being able to regain some control of your life, by following an exercise plan, will improve your motivation which in turn will help motivate you to make other changes in your life, such as to eat more healthily. 8. Moderated appetite: Low mood can cause increased or decreased appetite. Exercise can help regulate and ‘normalise’ hormones that may be affecting your appetite and weight gain or loss. Being more active burns more calories and can contribute to weight loss, which in turn may aid your sense of self-worth, giving you confidence to do more. We are not promoting excessive weight loss, but rather advocating the benefits of being active, having a healthy, balanced diet and respect for your body and reaping the rewards of taking control of your condition. It will also help you reduce your risk of suffering from other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 9. Improved cognition: Being physically inactive can lead to poor sleep and poor concentration, increased agitation and frustration as well as feelings of selfworthlessness. All of this can affect your ability to work, study, contribute at home or in your community. A sedentary lifestyle promotes cognitive decline and early onset dementia. Improvements in cognitive function and memory have been shown with increased levels of physical activity. 10. Reduced need for medication in low mood.