If you live with depression, you know that one of the most irritating — and frankly, offensive — things someone can say is "you'll feel better if you just work out." It's far from that simple, because being down isn't something you can just will yourself out of. But when you
do want to work out and your mental health's getting in your way, having some at-home workouts for depression in your back pocket can make it easier to get started.
Yes, it's annoying when someone who doesn't have depression chirpily tells you what will help. But the science backs it up: According to a 2019 study published in the journal
Depression and Anxiety, working out can help improve your mental health. The study acknowledged that it's often harder to start exercising when you're already in the midst of a tough emotional state, but it found that moving for even a half-hour a day could give you that mood boost you need.
"Since my mood worsens when I don't move, I prioritize some kind of movement every single day," says Glo yoga teacher
Elena Brower. "The simple act of making even a short duration of effort helps me to feel productive in my work, healthy in my mind, and peaceful in my body."
Sometimes, you might just have to take a deep breath and dive in. "Don't think too much about waiting to feel better or to be in a better mood to start working out," says
Jeff Paul, a senior area personal training manager at Blink Fitness. "Instead, think about how you'll feel better after you get a workout in." When your mind wants to go but your body doesn't want to cooperate, knowing these eight workouts for depression that you can do at home can make movement more accessible. 1 Move To Your Favorite Tunes
Not every dance workout has to be a high-intensity Zoom class. "One of the best ways to stay moving is to schedule myself 10 minutes of music with movement," Brower says. "It doesn't matter what kind of movement — even running in place on my yoga mat works — but I have to listen to music I love when I'm doing it. When I'm in the depths of sadness, which runs in my family and lives in my bones, this helps me tremendously to keep energy moving through my system."
2 Stretch It Out
"Sometimes when you're going through depression, even leaving the house may seem like something really difficult to do," Paul says. The good news is you don't even have to break a sweat to get some movement in. "Going through a simple
at-home stretching routine will not only help you feel better physically, but you'll also feel better emotional that you were able to complete it," he says.
Figure out what feels manageable to you. Maybe it's some
gentle stretching, or you just need to remind yourself to take a few long breaths in and out. "Choose a very short, low-intensity practice that doesn't contribute to feeling burdened or overwhelmed," says Glo yoga teacher Jason Crandell. "Resist the notion that it's an all-or-nothing dynamic in which you're either working out intensely or not at all." 3 Grab A Friend
Even if it's virtual, having a pal with you can help. "With a workout buddy, you can hold each other accountable, leave whatever is on your mind outside of the workout, and hopefully experience a few laughs while you train," says
Courtney Olson, a certified personal trainer and nutritionist with Blink Fitness. FaceTime your friend to do some breathing or kickboxing together, and feel free to make faces at each other to see who breaks into a giggle fit first. 5 Get In Some Sun Salutations
Yoga isn't a cure-all, but it
can serve as a restorative form of movement when you want to exercise but lack the desire or ability to jump into something high intensity.
"Just doing a few
sun salutations can also be a great help to shift sticky moods quickly," Brower says. It'll take all of two minutes if you just want to do a couple of cycles of standing, folding, stretching, and standing again. Your body will get warm but probably not overly sweaty. You can go as slow as you need, or as energetic as you want.
Simple, brief yoga practices that are designed for new students are a great starting place," Crandell tells Bustle. "Many people can be intimidated by what they perceive yoga to be — or who they perceive yoga is for. In reality, there are styles of yoga — especially those designed for new students — that are highly accessible and beneficial." 6 Stay Home (Even After The Pandemic)
"The upside of practicing at home is that it's private, and this can be reassuring for many," Crandell says. "This privacy can decrease the feeling of external pressures to perform or fit into a specific story of body-type narratives. It's possible that this will relieve the additional burden of fitting into an exercise culture that you may not resonate with."
Brower personally loves working out at home during the pandemic, because it comes with a huge side of self-love. "As long as I stick to my schedule, I find home workouts to be delicious," she says. "I jump right into a bath or shower and do all sorts of yummy self-care that I would've rushed through at the gym."
7 Go Online
Sometimes, the mental energy it takes to convince yourself to exercise is so draining that you can't spend any more thinking on the moves themselves. "Working out can be an added stress if you have to come up with the workout yourself," Olsen says. "Make it easier on yourself by looking up a
workout video. There are tons of videos out there for free. Take advantage of them and try something new." 8 Get Outside
It might be super hard to get out the door when you're feeling especially down. But once you do, Olsen says, the rewards can make you feel a bit better. "Getting outside and taking in
vitamin D is a great way to boost your mood while providing a mind-clearing experience," she says.
If you're like me and a solo walk without a destination gives you anxiety, Olsen recommends going on little errands. It doesn't have to be a formal workout for the movement to "count."
Studies referenced: Choi, K. W., Zheutlin, A. B., Karlson, R. A., Wang, M. J., Dunn, E. C., Stein, M. B., … Smoller, J. W. (2019). Physical activity offsets genetic risk for incident depression assessed via electronic health records in a biobank cohort study. Depression and Anxiety. doi: 10.1002/da.22967 Experts: Elena Brower, yoga teacher, Glo Jeff Paul, senior area personal training manager, Blink Fitness Jason Crandell, yoga teacher, Glo Courtney Olson, certified personal trainer and nutritionist, Blink Fitness
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This article was originally published on
July 23, 2020