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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What exercise would you recommend to alleviate depressive symptoms?

    Lately I've been having a lot of trouble with fatigue, getting to sleep and an overall decrease in my happiness.
    What kind of exercise would help to alleviate these feelings of tiredness and depression? I do Krav Maga (a type of MMA street-fighting) for one hour every Sunday evening and have been doing 30 skips (“jump rope”) twice a day, every day. I hate running as it hurts my knees and makes me extremely breathless (worsening my anxiety). I've also been trying to eat healthier. Does this sort of light exercise every day sound like it would help? Are there any other suggestions for exercises?
    Thanks, Riley :)
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    Michelle Linmore

    Counselling Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Sex Therapist

    Specializing in couples counselling, infertility, gay and lesbian counselling, sex therapy and relationship workshops. Based in Canberra. View Profile

    Hi Riley,

    I agree with Grant's advice to aim for something (or a number of different things) that you might enjoy as well as making sure it gets your heart rate up.

    It might be worth having a medical checkup first just to rule out physical causes of low mood and exhaustion and make sure the exercise will be helpful to you.

    Remember that the first few weeks are the most challenging for building a new habit so aim to keep it realistic, have as much support as possible (commitments such as a personal trainer/ fitness class/ friend you're meeting can help) and really focus on the reasons for making this change ie what is attractive about it in the long term. 

    It is likely that if you are feeling tired and down or anxious, some days you will be doing this as a committed action rather than as something you want to do. Over time it will feel more natural.  I'd suggest setting yourself a time frame (eg committing to a new activity for a week) and then reviewing whether it is working for you.  I think you are on the right track and it is so great you haven't given up despite the setback with the skipping triggering anxiety.  All the best with it.

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    Dr Roi Cheng

    Chiropractor

    Graduating with distinctions from the prestigious 5 years Bachelors and Masters Chiropractic program at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Dr Roi Cheng took a … View Profile

    Hi there Riley,

    Just adding on to the great advice Grant and Michelle have given you so far, I think exercises that have a focus/meditative aspect to it, such as Yoga, Tai Chi, and some more traditional forms of martial arts could do good for you. It trains your mind to focus on the tasks and motions at hand and filter out the unneccesary stimuli from your environment. It can also improve your breathing and posture, both of which have been shown to affect a person's mood.

    Another great simple exercise to fight of depressive symptoms is to just take a simple brisk walk! Especially if the weather is good, the act of going outside, breathing fresh air and taking in the sights can have a profound effect on taking your mind off what's bothering you and reducing symptoms of anxiety. Also, getting enough vitamin D from sunlight has been shown to increase the effectiveness of your immune system, improving your general health and well-being. (Adit et al, 2009)

    Hope this helps, and I hope that your find what exercise works best for you!

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    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I think that the health professionals have all made good suggestions.

    As somebody who is in remission from depression, my approach is to walk briskly for 30-40 minutes a day. There is fairly good evidence that brisk exercise can trigger endorphin release in the brain (good for mood improval).

    At my clinical psychologist's suggestion, I combine exercise with mindfulness - just noticing the colours, shapes, sounds, etc, of things that I encounter on my walks - this combo works well for me.

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