Running, Biking & Swimming to a Healthy Body AND Mind

I try to keep my blog posts as raw and to the point as possible. I blog a lot about overcoming two eating disorders and how much I love running. How running has helped me through the years become more clear-minded and realize that in order for my body to be healthy, I need to nourish it, take care of it. But, I really don’t touch on how running, as well as biking and swimming, continue to help me on an everyday basis from my other mental illnesses. DEPRESSION & ANXIETY.

I’ve been on anti-depressants since I was 12 years old, so for 13 years now. I’ve also been on medications for my anxiety as well. Taking a pill or two before bedtime is just a regular part of my routine, since I have so many with my OCD.

Running, biking, and newly, swimming, has helped me become more at ease by not obsessing as much and helps my mood, tremendously. Though I’m on the highest dosage of my anti-depressant (Celexa) healthily possible, I still feel the symptoms of depression every once in a while… Especially lately since I’m still on the job search after graduating with my masters. The denial letters from potential employers and lack of income coming in has played its toll on me. I’m very open about my feelings and am able to share them with my family, friends, and my partner. But, sharing and medication just sometimes isn’t enough… So, I turn to exercise.

Currently I’m training for an Olympic triathlon AND a marathon. So yeah, I get PLENTY of exercise. Not only is all this exercise good on my body (well most of it anyway), but also on my mind.

Just the other day I felt especially down and not feeling so worthy of anything. I woke up late, ate, fell back to sleep, and just laid around, feeling down. I knew I had a swim that day, so I got up, drove to the Recreation Center and jumped into the pool. The cool, chlorinated water was not only refreshing, but invigorating. The first couple of laps were OK, but the rest of them felt amazing. I seriously felt like a whole new person. I started pushing myself to stretch my arms out longer, faster and kick my legs; my adrenaline immediately kicked in.

It’s amazing what some laps of swimming can do. Or a run or bike.

It’s true though, exercise can help ease depression and anxiety.

According to a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, “Understanding Depression,” 

“A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms. Walking fast for only 15 minutes a day five times a week or doing stretching exercises three times a week did not help as much. (These exercise lengths were calculated for someone who weighs about 150 pounds. If you weigh more, longer exercise times apply, while the opposite is true if you weigh less than 150 pounds.)”

The article also goes on to say that experts have known that exercise enhances the action of endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. You all know how I LOVE Endorphins and talk about them frequently!

“Endorphons improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain. They may also serve to improve mood. Another theory is that exercise stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood.” – Harvard Medical School 

Also, according to Mayo Clinic, exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects

This is not to say that exercise CURES depression and anxiety, but helps one MANAGE their depression/anxiety. And I’m living proof. 🙂

And of course my dog Miles, he helps put me in a better mood too (for the most part). 🙂

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But who couldn’t help but be in a good mood with this guy around??

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