A few weeks ago, while training a new octogenarian client, she expressed that she battled with depression. I told her she was doing exactly the best thing she could for it—exercise. Over the last few decades, there have been many studies that prove that exercise is more effective than antidepressant drugs in reducing the symptoms of depression, without the negative side effects.
Older adults—many of who deal with loneliness, isolation, and physical limitations-- are especially prone to depression. Exercise alleviates depression by stimulating endorphins, a natural chemical in the body that improves mood and reduces pain. This phenomenon is also known as the “runners high”. Exercise may also stimulate the neurotransmitter epinephrine, another mood enhancer.
Regular exercisers enjoy the benefits of increased strength, mobility and balance, along with weight loss—all major confidence boosters. Many forms of exercise for seniors require joining a group or club. Imagine being in a walking group, dance class, or exercise class and enjoying the physical activity and the company of the others in the group. The double benefit of getting fit and making friends is one of the best antidepressants there is.
After only a few weeks, I already notice my octogenarian client smile more and sit taller. Most regular exercisers of all ages tend to be happier, more confident, and more content with their lives. Check your local health club or senior center for what exercise classes are available.