Whether a Corporate VP or a stay-at-home Parent, use this constructive advice to pull you out of depression from this writer’s own experience
May 26, 2022
Group fitness has flipped far and away from the old 80s coddling to young skinnies in shiny tights. (Thank you.) Still thriving, today’s diversity in group exercise and empathetic coaching intelligently transform the physical and emotional well-being of today’s women.
Four decades of this unbroken love affair have evolved into assorted styles that attract all ages. What has not changed is that group fitness still turns exercise into some badass fun. The laughter is infectious. The airspace is non-punishing. And, without a doubt, if you love it, you do it.
Part of this exercise amazingness caters to those who don’t want to “plan” or think seriously about anything for an hour. Except to frolic and relish our bodies. Group fitness produces inspiring mental and physical discoveries. One, often unsaid, is the dramatic enrichment of our mood. Instrumental for many women (and men) who suffer from clinical depression.
The first sensible step is to nail down our elective motivators
Lack of motivation is a recurrent and overwhelming symptom of depression. We all need some degree of motivation to initiate anything whether heading to the grocery store or our job. These two are obvious survival motivators that are habitual.
Other motivators that hiss at us are the elective motivators or our self-duties. These are bathing, laundry, teeth brushing, exercising, retrieving mail, etc. These electives take a hulky whack to perform for depressive brains. When accomplished, our consistency is still sometimes spotty.
Take exercise for example
To activate our exercise motivator we need to summon our mindset to become accountable. This accountability becomes our motivation. Easily said, but daunting for some.
During depressive episodes, we experience a mental wrestling match to compel accountability. Its success depends on the sense of importance introduced in the fight. Each elective motivator needs profound focus without a roaming mind. Again, easily said. Once conquered, your first step forward clocks in.
What’s the toughest part of going to your first group class, or any class?
Leaving the house, right?
Cook group exercise and social contact in the same pot
Whatever your exercise choice is, the benefits of a group fitness climate reduce and ease depression and anxiety significantly. Both exercise and social contact are pivotal in the prevention and treatment of many mental health disorders. Socialization provides us with comfort, compassion, and empathy.
As the pot simmers…
Look over these amazing long-term effects showing how group exercise far surpasses the solo road:
- The instructors are inspiring, dynamic, and sensitive
- The high-powered music rocks (when class appropriate)
- The camaraderie is comforting
- Occasional grunting? Hysterical
- Negative news is non-existent, you’re way too focused
- Uplifting social connections come to light
- The self-challenge becomes appealing
- Negative stored energy is released; anxiety reduced
- Every class is a celebration
As a rule, we generally seek exercise to better our lifestyle, trim fat, improve sleep, and feel and look better. But to a greater extent, those who exercise and adhere to it value what they’ve become.
Add adherence and you’re there
Group exercise is a serious motivator in itself. Why?
- Because, those around us know when we show up, and when we don’t — accountability
- Those who workout in a group report better consistency — remember that word adhere
- Others in the group see your personal progress, and you see theirs — glorious!
- Better success is reported from group exercise — success is what we want, right?
These are pretty brawny motivating factors. Pun intended.
Depression is very self-isolating. This isolation digs us into a deeper hole one day after the next. Make the commitment and climb out of the hold by trying these suggestions. Expect some days to be better than others. Group workouts are a way to reach out to others, and they to you in a very natural way. If you are the quiet type – fine. No discussion required. Just move.
Given the positive effects of exercising in a group, it seems simple enough to suggest signing up for a fitness class to anyone who can benefit from a shift in mood. But the ability to engage with a group can be a hurdle for individuals suffering from depression. The same goes for starting an exercise routine. Lack of motivation is common among people with a mood disorder. Given these challenges, setting modest exercise goals with as little as one extra person working out alongside is the perfect starting point. As confidence in the ability to exercise and interact with others grows, workout frequency and the number of fellow exercisers can gradually increase, which should result in less sadness, anxiety and overall depression.
see article by Jill Barker • Special to Montreal Gazette Publishing date: Sep 12, 2021, https://montrealgazette.com/health/diet-fitness/fitness-having-a-workout-buddy-might-help-improve-your-mood
Group Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling to ease depression
Group workouts have magnificent and powerful effects on mental health challenges. Stress levels lower right along with mood improvement. And all physical activity is mood-enhancing. Whether a fanatic or subdued fitness participant, any form of exercise improves our outlook and energy. We become uplifted. The proven results are a better quality of life.
When your past solo attempts at stepping up to better health have been unsuccessful, I urge you to try a form of group exercise. Here are some unbeatable lures to chew on:
- You won’t be alone
- Solid emotional support awaits (aka security blanket)
- Exercise time passes quickly
- The community connection is immediate
- The mix of personalities is witty and educational
- The gains are life-altering
- You are doing something meaningful for yourself and others like you
Here comes euphoria!
After your first class, you’ll be fired up. Where self-confidence and sadness were buried deep in your soul – both now seem a bit lame. In fact, a strong sense of self-control takes over. “Depression, I divorce you,” you’ll proclaim with gratitude. Welcome to my beginning. This could apply to YOU.
This part is major in the life-altering mix of social and health benefits. In the near future, you will likely seek out more fitness class options (or trainers) that suit you best. In 2021, yoga scored number one in popularity — particularly for mid-age and senior women. With age, we develop more aches and pains.
The blessings of yoga practice are:
- all our muscles are strengthened and stretched
- the joint impact is minimal
- the breath focus engages a simmering self-release
Long-awaited by fitness trainers, contemporary physicians now surrender to, “Try yoga,” instead of drugs. Other high-listed group fitness winners – somewhat more intense – are Barre, Pilates, Stretching, Swimming, Spinning, Dance, group walking clubs, and are you ready? Pickleball. There is much diversity in our demographic areas to take advantage of. One option is a local recreation center if a fitness center or dedicated studio is unavailable or unappealing.
Need an alternative?
If a group atmosphere is not possible for you, step outdoors. Being outside in nature lowers tension or anger. Walk around the block. Every day is a step forward. Those improvements become our motivators and they stick. No gym required. A neighbor might even join you. Extend the invitation.
Getting back to motivators, here’s a non-fitness motivator example:
Let’s try what I call an organic motivator.
You are out running errands and bump into an acquaintance who says, “Hey, you look great in green!” The compliment settles in sweetly. Later you will pluck that little party favor out of your brain and I bet your next clothing purchase is green. (Maybe yoga pants?) When you wear it, you’ll hold your head proudly. Voila! A perfect organic motivator.
Hoisted by happy chemicals
Exercise sessions release particular chemicals from our brain and central nervous system. For example, after a brisk walk, a yoga practice, a swim, or a bike ride. These natural brain chemicals are called “happy chemicals” or endorphins. Different exercise intensities release varying levels of endorphins. Different activities do as well, such as eating chocolate, laughing, or sex.
“Endorphins are neurochemicals produced in the body in the pituitary gland in response to stress and pain,” Dr. J. Kip Matthews, sports psychologist explains. In layman’s terms, they’re kind of like natural painkillers. “They interact with opiate receptors in the body, which then minimizes our pain experience.” As in: They make you feel good.
Society today has begun to respect mental health and its importance to us all. Depression is a force to be reckoned with and needs treatment. Many with mild to moderate depressive illness who commit to regular exercise require no medications.
Mental illness, no matter to what degree, affects youth, adults, and the elderly for various reasons. Mental illness bears no bias against corporate VPs, food servers, or nurses. It affects our marriages, friendships, jobs, nutrition, and physical well-being.
Every worthwhile wellness organization advocates regular physical exercise to treat depression. Why? Because it works and works long-term with consistency.
It might take 3 or 4 tries to develop your mindset and nab your accountability marker. Be patient with yourself. Self-improvement and self-help are the goals. Not self-perfection.
How my first class went
I tried my first group (aerobics) class more than two decades ago. Yes, crop tops were “in.” But, let’s UNremember that, shall we?
My first class was less than masterful. After class and still standing I was rather puffy-chested, to be honest. I couldn’t wait for the next. Committed, I never turned back.
Date nights with the boyfriend were rescheduled, and job overtime was refused. I was confident, positive, and the freakin’ boss of me! In short order, I made fitness friends.
Your next accountability appointment starts here
And, there WILL be another! To create your next accountability, make yourself an appointment. It’s as simple as a sticky note on the bathroom mirror. I did this for years and still do when a new elective motivator enters my life.
Too simple? Not really. Because if you stay away from complicating your mind, you stay away from pressure and complexity. Complexity can be negative and distracting. A negative can blast our depressive behavior backward – in moments.
So, make your sticky appointment. Find it on the mirror tomorrow morning. Smile knowing it’s a new day and go, girls!
Need assistance?? Contact me for a consultation…
An Aside, as a Personal Trainer:
Clients with mild-to-moderate depressive illness often reach out to their fitness coaches with trust and share private stories. They express how exercise programs have freed them of the dark mindset. In the past decade, certified fitness trainers embrace added study in anxiety and depression with continuing education.
Each client has different needs somewhat beyond the physical exercise. As mentioned, motivation or self-confidence top those needs for many depression sufferers. Therefore, commending our fitness clients on his/her genuine accomplishments lifts them up. These declarations resonate deeply as clients battle their constant self-analysis. In turn, the positive shines inward and outward. Deservedly so.
Building palpable relationships with struggling clients takes solid on-the-job experience from a seasoned professional.
Qualified fitness pros must recognize when their client might benefit from a more precise level of professional help. Discreetly recommending the same to the client is our responsibility (where appropriate and without judgment or diagnosis). We must contribute in all ways possible to better both the client’s physical and mental health. —Gwenn
Gwenn Jones, CPT — Content writer in Wellness-Lifestyle-Fitness, Gwenn is a 25-year ACE-certified personal fitness trainer, yoga studio owner, instructor and fitness consultant. Grateful to be a native Californian where happily home-based.
Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Melinda Smith, M.A., “What are the mental health benefits of exercise?” Helpguide.org, https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm, updated November 14, 2022
Beth Daley, “Group exercise may be even better for you than solo workouts – here’s why.” Theconversation.com, December 29, 2020, https://theconversation.com/group-exercise-may-be-even-better-for-you-than-solo-workouts-heres-why-149348
Kelsey Graham, “Exercise to Reduce Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression,” AceFitness.org, August 29, 2017, https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/6537/exercise-to-reduce-symptoms-of-anxiety-and-depression/
Jill Barker, “Fitness: Having a workout buddy might help improve your mood.” Montrealgazette.com, September 12, 2021, https://montrealgazette.com/health/diet-fitness/fitness-having-a-workout-buddy-might-help-improve-your-mood
Maria Cohut, Ph.D., fact checked by Jasmin Collier, Medical News Today: “What are the health benefits of being social?” Medicalnewstoday.com, February 23, 2018, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321019#Social-context-determines-healthful-habits
Kelly McGonigal, “Five Surprising Ways Exercise Changes Your Brain.” Greatergood.berkeley.edu, January 6, 2020, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/itetm/five_surprising_ways_exercise_changes_your_brain
Emily Laurence, “Endorphins and Exercise: How Intense Does a Workout Have to Be for the ‘High’ to Kick in?” Wellandgood.com, July 27, 2018, https://www.wellandgood.com/endorphins-and-exercise/