Ease Seasonal Affective Disorder With an Exercise Routine

To summarize: Exercise can help improve mood and overall symptoms in people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

resource: Baylor College of Medicine

As the days start to get shorter and darker, people may feel the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Depressed mood caused by changes in light may be related to lower levels of neurotransmitters in the body, such as serotonin and dopamine.

If you are affected by SAD, it is important to continue your exercise routine, as exercise can elevate your mood. An expert at Baylor College of Medicine explains how to change up your exercise routine during the dark months.

“With seasonal affective disorder, it's best to keep exercising and maybe even increase it,” said Dr. James McDivitt, Baylor professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and executive vice president and director of clinical affairs.

“Relatively consistent aerobic activity has a positive effect on mood, but you don't just need to run or do aerobic exercise — you can also do things like yoga, tai chi, or meditation that can help with depressive symptoms.”

Outdoor sports

If you enjoy running or doing other exercise outdoors, you can still do it safely before sunrise or after sunset, as long as you keep yourself visible. McDeavitt recommends reflective clothing and flashing lights that can clip onto clothing or shoes. He also recommends leaving your earbuds at home and listening to your environment and surroundings.

“There's a balance. Find a place that's isolated enough to prevent traffic jams while making sure enough people are around to feel safe. You can also bring personal protective equipment with you,” he said.

Try to find a predictable running surface, such as a track or well-paved road, to avoid injury when running in low light.

exercise indoors

Incorporate resistance training into your workout routine using dumbbells or resistance bands at home. You can repeat most resistance exercises using only an elastic resistance band.

Other bodyweight exercises that you can easily perform at home include push-ups, planks, and squats. If you have the resources, you can buy cardio equipment for your home, such as a stationary bike or treadmill.

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Incorporate resistance training into your workout routine using dumbbells or resistance bands at home.Image is in the public domain

“There's value in maintaining your routine seasonally. Even if you run outdoors a lot in the spring and have to move indoors in the winter, don't give up your workout,” says McDivitt.

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He also recommends incorporating mindfulness into your workouts, such as stretching or doing yoga or tai chi a few times a week.

“There are things you can do indoors that will not only give you physical benefits, but also mental benefits,” he says.

It takes about three months to develop a habit by doing an activity consistently. When you stop being active, you're likely to break a habit faster than you can make it. It is crucial to set aside some time each day to maintain your exercise habit.

“In SAD, depression, or other conditions, you experience low serotonin and dopamine levels, but there are benefits to boosting neurotransmitter levels with exercise,” McDivitt says.

If you experience depressive symptoms, seasonal or not, talk to your primary care provider for help. Dial 988 from anywhere in the United States to connect to the Suicide and Crisis Hotline, which provides confidential support to those in distress.

News about this Seasonal Affective Disorder and Exercise Research

author: Homasarci
resource: Baylor College of Medicine
touch: Homa Shalchi – Baylor College of Medicine
picture: Image is in the public domain

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