These 5 Exercise Hacks Can Help When Depression Hits

Young blond female runs along the beach

Exercise is great for your mental and physical health. | iStock.com/warrengoldswain

If you’ve ever experienced depression, you’re well aware that the last thing you want to hear is “just try some exercise.” Telling a depressed individual that exercise will help is true, however, it’s tough to hear that lifestyle changes are the “key” to depression; it indicates that the mental disorder is something you can solve.

The reality is that certain lifestyle changes will aid you in managing your depression. These five exercise hacks are manageable and motivating to those navigating their mental health and can make the process a lot easier to boot.

1. Try working out at home

Sometimes the hardest part of working out is getting outside and to the gym or field. Avoid that hump completely and set up a home gym so that when motivation strikes you can just get right to the workout. Most people have a wide range of home workout devices right at their fingertips that they don’t know about.

Have an Amazon Alexa? Use it as a personal trainer. Download one of hundreds of free exercise apps like My Fitness Pal, which strives to help you balance your exercise with a healthy diet. If you don’t have an Instagram account (which we totally support — spending time on social media comparing your life to others can be detrimental to your mental health) sign up simply to follow motivating fitness accounts that offer workout videos you can do from the comfort of your own home.

2. Grab a partner

man performing a plank on a blue exercise mat as a woman times him

Don’t underestimate the power of a partner. | Source: iStock

There’s strength in numbers, and for plenty of people, the buddy system is an extremely effective way to motivate a good workout routine. Exercising with a close friend who has similar goals is a great way to combat common feelings associated with depression: loneliness and seclusion.

Expert research shows that working out with a crew helps you stay motivated, hold yourself accountable, and even releases more endorphins than working out alone does. “Group activity may not be a new concept but it has certainly seen massive international up-trends … I believe it to be a key indicator that working out in a motivational pack … is fast becoming the preferred form of exercise,” the personal trainer and founder of RETROFIT told NBC News. Sign us up!

3. Mix up the routine

Switching up your exercise routine is beneficial for a number of factors, primarily that it keeps your body and mind guessing and more productive.

However, mixing up your workout routine seems expensive — especially if you don’t have the funds to alternate cycle, boxing, and cardio classes each week. It doesn’t have to be that financially or time-consuming if you stick to mixing up the day-to-day exercises you do. Alternate a mile run with hand-weight exercises, get outside and go for a moderately strenuous bike ride, or do a “commercial workout” during one of your favorite television shows.

If you find workout classes to be the best motivation, try relatively cheap deals like Class Pass. The “most flexible gym membership ever” offers all-access membership to thousands of gym and fitness programs. You can buy a set number of classes and try out all kinds of gyms including cycling, yoga, pilates, and Crunch studios.

4. Consult a trainer

It’s definitely more pricey than consulting a friend, but oftentimes it takes a personal trainer’s expertise to encourage you, and that’s OK. Personal trainers (especially those that understand the correlation between exercise and mental health) are great tools to help you stay active when you’re struggling to self-motivate.

If you already belong to a gym you may have access to a discounted rate for a personal trainer or free consultations. Use this list to help you find the right personal trainer for your mental and physical fitness goals and needs.

5. Remember: Take a rest day!

A mental health expert can guide you through recovery. | Monkeybusinessimages/ iStock/Getty Images Plusexpert

Take a rest day from your exercise and use it as a mental health day. Use the time to relax your body and mind as well as identify what is and isn’t working for you with your workout. Ask yourself how you feel before you exercise and compare it to your mental state afterward. Multiple experts recommend logging your feelings along with your diet and workout to help narrow down what works and what doesn’t.

Ultimately, the most important thing you can do is listen to your body. Be gentle with yourself as you develop a routine that works for you. Remember that comparison is the thief of joy and your success likely looks a lot different than the people around you. Most importantly, be your own advocate, shun self-criticism, and practice mindfulness when it comes to your exercise and mental health.

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