“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.” ― Ellen DeGeneres
When people say you need to start walking to lessen your depression, I'm pretty sure they don't mean for you to pull a Forest Gump and never stop! According to research cited in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the advantages of walking and other forms of moderate physical activity are astonishing for helping curb depression. It decreases depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy. One 12 week study showed a 50% decrease in symptoms for participants that walked on a treadmill or rode a stationary bike following public health recommendations for physical activity 3-5 days a week. A 30-minute walk or 20-minute bike ride would fit that bill. There are plenty of other activities that can help raise your spirits, but walking consistently is one of the best goals to set and maintain in order to help regulate your mood.
Not only is walking great for your physical and emotional health, I have found it to be a wonderfully uplifting spiritual experience too. There are so many times that I needed to spend time alone with God and couldn't because of normal, everyday distractions (not that they were bad things, just busy things). Going for a walk or run gives me the opportunity to enjoy some one-on-one time with the Lord and talk to Him, praise Him or even pour out painful emotions to Him. Regular exercise benefits mind, body and spirit.
But, you may say, when depressed, you really don't feel like doing anything like that. Yes, depression sucks the life out of you. It's hard. The best thing is to make exercise a habit. Start a walking plan today. Put it on your calendar, to-do list or whatever you need to in order to make it consistent. You can't wait until you feel like it - trust me, I know!
Friends & family - don't just tell your loved one with depression to get moving, go with them. Just like any other disorder, they may need help getting started or overcoming the effects of depression on their body and motivation. Ask to go with them or do something to help free up 30 minutes so they can go walking. An added bonus to walking together is the social aspect of building your relationship. And whether they say it or not, it really means a lot that you would care enough to spend time with them.