Man jogging

Any small amount of physical activity is better than none.

When battling depression, motivation in all aspects of life can suffer, including physical activity. Yet, research has shown that commitment to a sustainable routine of being physically active in your day-to-day life can help ease symptoms in both the short and long term. This happens through the uptake of various neurotransmitters that are released when we move our bodies.

Here are a few tips for getting started on your own physical activity routine.

1: Think of Activities You Can do

The term physical activity means a lot of things. Anything that gets your body moving can be considered physical activity and will help you manage the symptoms of your depression. Deciding what level of physical activity works for you at any given point is a crucial step in developing your physical routine. Your activity should be something that challenges you slightly but does not discourage you from trying again tomorrow.
Here are some examples of self paced activities you can enjoy:

  • Walking around your neighbourhood
  • Jogging in a nearby park or green space
  • Biking short distances instead of driving or taking transit
  • Being physically active around your own home

2: Be Realistic About What Works for You

When beginning to set up your routine, it’s important to be realistic about what you can sustainably manage. Think about things you have access to in your daily life that you can use to your advantage. Parks, gyms, walking/biking paths or any form of equipment (bikes, running shoes, etc.) are great examples of this.

Activities you pick should also be convenient to you. Your routine should ideally make it as easy as possible for you to complete your desired physical activity.

3: Write Your Goals Down

If you’re not sure of where to begin, creating a list of objectives is a great way to start the ball rolling. Writing down daily, weekly, or even monthly goals is a crucial step in setting up a healthy activity routine. These goals should be built to cater to your personal situation and should be focused on the activity itself rather than end results. Having some goals to work towards on a consistent basis is a great way to bring some added structure to your routine.

Here are some examples of activity goals.

  • I want to walk for 10 minutes 5 times a week.
  • I would like to spend 20 minutes each day doing chores around my house.
  • I would like to run 60 kilometers this month.

4: Ease Into it

There’s no need to find the limits of your physical capabilities right away. Easing into your routine and avoiding burnout is important to staying consistent and enjoying the benefits of physical activity in the long term. Finding a pace that works for you and building a baseline is very important as well. Don’t be afraid to revaluate your goals at any point, if they prove to be too hard or too easy.

The goals you create should come exclusively from your personal motivation. In this way, external pressure from the outside world can be relieved, and you can take your time figuring out how best to activate your body and mind.

5: It’s Never “All or Nothing”

It’s important to note that physical activity should never be approached from an “all or nothing” perspective. If a goal is not achieved or an activity is left uncompleted, the most important step is to look forward to the next one and not abandon the entire process.

There will always be times when we fall short of what we hoped to accomplish on any given day, but the consistency of your routine is what truly matters. Any small amount of physical activity is better than none.

Written by the HeadsUpGuys Team - Combining lived experience, clinical practice, and research expertise. Reviewed and approved by Dr. John Ogrodniczuk - Professor and Director of the Psychotherapy Program at the Department of Psychiatry, The University of British Columbia.
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