The Effects of Exercise on Depression in Seniors
Whether caused by social isolation due to retirement, worries concerning medical issues, or daily life stress-inducing struggles, depression, anxiety, and stress are shared among the elderly. Undeniably, these symptoms affect seniors differently than youngsters. If you feel depressed, you may think you are reaching the bottom, while dealing with the seemingly meaningless life might exhaust you. In addition to the existential crisis that emerged from depression and anxiety, they also can put you at the risk of severe medical conditions such as a heart attack or a stroke. Undoubtedly, the effects of exercise on depression in seniors are of vital importance in such cases.
Clearly, getting help from a professional and talking to a therapist is a must, yet some other actions can certainly help you overcome such conditions. Physical activities are vital in your general well-being. Undoubtedly, working out assists you to cope with negative feelings more easily. It also can prevent you from various physical health problems that appear by aging, like falling, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Furthermore, exercising also can help you maintain your independence in your daily routine and, more importantly, make your muscles stronger.
Physical activities cause the release of some necessary chemicals that directly affect your mood and mental health. This, however, does not mean that you need to do heavy exercises, but you should bear in mind that any regular physical activity is way more beneficial than none at all. Here is the list of activities you can involve in to boost your physical and mental health. Remember that you should always warm-up before and cool down after each exercise and training.
What are the effects of aerobic exercises on depression in seniors?
Aerobic exercises, also known as “cardio,” make your heart pump oxygenated blood to your body parts. As result, they stimulate your heart and breathing rate. The oxygen helps muscles with burning fuel and move. The distribution of oxygen can positively affect depression, stress, and anxiety in seniors. Moreover, cardio exercises boost memory for the elderly.
Benefits of Aerobic Exercises on depression in seniors:
- Reduced depression and anxiety caused by an increase in blood circulation to the brain
- Decreased stress and fear
- Improved self-esteem and self-efficacy
- Less risk of heart diseases and strokes
- Decreased high blood pressure
- Help with metabolic syndrome
- Controlled blood sugar
- Help with weight management
- Enhanced lung function
Some easy aerobic exercises are listed below:
- Walking/ Hiking
- Jogging/ Running
So if you are not in the mood for strenuous activity, just taking a walk or dancing would suffice and bring you benefits you did not think. Aerobic exercises can change your mood rapidly while distracting you from negative thoughts during working out and consequently bring joy to your life by boosting your self-esteem. Besides,they are also great opportunities for you to socialize with others on the same boat as you are and consequently feel less lonely as you have new people in your life to talk to and share your concerns.
What are the effects of muscle exercises in seniors?
Muscle-strengthening activities make muscles work harder than what they are used to it. Evidently, they overload muscles. So obviously, they have benefits that aerobic exercises do not feature. These resistance exercises have great effects on depression and stress in seniors as well as anxiety. They act on neurobiological systems, specifically neurotransmitters and neurotrophic and growth factors. Intensity, frequency, and repetitions play significant roles in such activities. Therefore, you are better off with professional trainers to avoid any harm if you tend to pursue heavy muscle-strengthening activities. On the other hand, some easy activities that can minimize the risk of injury. The effects of exercise on depression in seniors using these activities are excellent. Some of them are named later on in the article.
Benefits of Muscle-strengthening activities on depression in seniors:
- Improved self-confidence and self-image
- Higher bone strength and muscular fitness
- Enhanced the overall ability to do daily activities such as lifting boxes
- Decreased risk of harm and injury
- Help with maintaining healthy body weight
Some muscle-strengthening activities for seniors are listed below:
- Toe stands
- Tai Chi
- Weight lifting
- Exercising with resistance bands
- Push-ups and sit-ups
- Wall push-ups
- Serious gardening like digging and shoveling
- Carrying or moving heavy shopping bags
Muscle-strengthening activities are excellent exercises that benefit you much if you do them correctly and cautiously, making you feel better about yourself as you witness your power and health improvement. Moreover, doing yoga and Tai chi also helps you relieve stress, calm your mind, help you have better sleep, and put you at peace with yourself and the world around you.
What are the effects of balance exercises on depression in seniors?
The importance of balance should never be taken for granted. Balance activities are relatively critical once you are at the risk of falling or have difficulty in walking. Subsequently, low balance can be highly problematic. Somewhat keeping a healthy balance can increasingly affect your self-confidence, as well as move away from depression.
Effects of balance exercises on depression in seniors:
- Increased self-confidence due to faster reaction time
- Better coordination helping with preventing falls
- Improved brain function helping you with avoiding dangerous situations
- Help with building better posture
- Increased overall muscular power
Here is the list of some balance activities:
- Rock the Boat
- Weight Shift
- Tightrope Walk
- Flamingo Stand
- Tree Pose
- Heel-to-Toe Walk
- Back Leg Raises
- Side Leg Raise
- Clock Reach
- Balancing Wand
When done regularly, these exercises can enhance your body posture day by day, and as you gain better control and perform efficient reactions, your body will be at more peace. Consequently, you will feel calm and be able to cope more effectively with stress-inducing conditions, all of which leading you to feel better about yourself and build up an enhanced self-confidence and self-assurance.
Anxiety, stress, and depression can be too hard to handle, especially once you suffer from physical pain or are tired of staying lonely at home. Hence, physical activity is always a great help in changing your mood, distracting you from your issues, as well as maintaining your overall well-being. Exercise releases chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin, which are critical factors in changing your mood. It can help you go out in the world, start connecting with others, and feel less lonely or isolated. Finally, you can witness the effects of exercise on depression in seniors by releasing stress and calming anxiety. Thus if you feel down or stressed, it is time to give the physical activity a try.
I have belonged to many gyms, have a Bowflex Max Trainer in my home, I used to attend Pilates classes…
I have a drawer full of exercise DVD’s – Yoga and aerobic…
My blood pressure is excellent, and I also take vitamins and supplements. I’ve been taking them for years, I know there are supplement haters out there, never understood why!!
I take care not only of my physical activity but my mental activity as well.
All of that is important to maintaining the body and the mind I have been given, and so it is for all human beings.
Your right. It’s so important to have a regular exercise schedule in our lives because, plus its benefits for our physical health, it’s so essential for our mental health too. I’m trying yoga, too; yoga is like a treatment for mental issues, especially depression. My advice for other seniors is to try yoga with an expert.
I couldn’t agree with you more, Ella. After I was born, my mother started going through postpartum depression. And it went on for five years. I was too young to understand what was going on in her mind. She talked about it with me a few years back and told me how yoga and meditation saved her. Suggested by one of her friends who went through the same story, my mother started taking yoga classes, and after a year, she was back to her energetic self again. So I would recommend anyone going through a tough time do the same thing.
You are right. However, depression is like an uncalled guest. It’s true that exercise can help with depression. But does it mean professional athletes are immune to it? I hardly think so. I respect the people who can take care of their mental health as well as physical health with working out. But it might not be the case for everyone out there struggling with depression.
I’ve been trying pilates for a couple of years, and as a person who is 60 years old, I should mention that it’s an incredible workout for me. Pilates has an excellent effect on the whole body and metabolism and helped me improve my physical and mental situation; I suggest you try this as soon as possible.
Dear Ella, I have a question. After having knee surgery last year, I have limited mobility and have never practiced Pilates. Would it make sense to start?
Whenever I have a stressful or frustrating day, Pilates calms me down and makes me feel peaceful. The exercise is quite meditative, but it is not like yoga, and the worst thing about it is that I cannot express my anger or frustration through it. Running, aerobics, and boxing have been more beneficial to me.
I know exercise is beneficial. But sometimes, a depressed person doesn’t even like to move much. Depression drains all the energy out of us. Is there any way to convince a depressed person to get up and start exercising? I don’t think so.
If a person suffers from acute depression as far as being reluctant to do any activity, I think there is no way to convince he/her to work out. In such a level of depression, just medicines can help. So the best advice is to encourage he/her to go to a therapist.
I used to be a lot more active. I went out for 2-hour walks every day. But, after the pandemic, I became lazier over time. The idea of wearing a mask for 2 hours and walking non-stop every day overwhelmed me. And after a while, I stopped going outdoors altogether.
Unfortunately, this decision impacted my mental health. I would lie down on my bed and browse the internet most of the day. Or watch a Netflix show. Four weeks ago, I realized how unproductive, lazy, and demotivated I’ve become during the past two years. It made me want to start going out for walks again. It’s a slow start, but I plan to start going to the gym in a few days. Hopefully, I will be my old, active self again.
Well, it goes without saying that doing exercise is advantageous to the body and mind. But about depression, what I have realized in parks where the elderly come and do exercise or go walking is that when they do it regularly, they find friends of the same age and start socializing with them. So apart from all the benefits mentioned above, the social aspect of exercise is beneficial to depression.
Last month my best friend’s doctor diagnosed her with depression. He told her that she should start doing workouts and that it would help with her depression. So, she started going to the gym, and a coach made her a gym program based on her body’s capabilities.
She followed the program and did almost every move and exercise. The only difference I see in her compared to last month is that her condition has only gotten worse, and she is more depressed than before. Based on her experience, I don’t think we can fix our minds by just lifting weights.
A few years ago, I started going to therapy because my depression negatively affected my relationship with my boyfriend and the people around me. I told my therapist that I was tired of taking anti-depressants and would appreciate it if they helped me differently. They suggested I join the gym, and at first, I was not keen on the idea. But now I’m glad I listened to them. In the past two years, not only I’ve given myself a confidence boost by transforming my body, but I’ve also found a way to take control of my feelings and my life.
Hello guys. I have a question. Recently, I have been feeling unproductive and, to some degree, a waste of space. I have talked about my feelings with a close friend of mine, and she told me that I should try out going to the gym, or buy some weights and exercise from home. She does strength training and is a confident and outgoing person. However, I am not a big fan of lifting weights and doing resistance exercises. I wanted to know if the kind of exercise I do matters when it comes to dealing with sadness or depression.
My psychologist tells me that all I need is exercise. He encourages me to run, swim or simply walk. I’ve tried all these things; still, I can’t find the passion for staying committed to a regular plan. I think it’s pointless. Yet no matter how hard I try, I can’t get started… Any suggestion?
Jasmine, I think you should try activities that you know you’ll like at least a little. If you like and enjoy something, then you’ll keep doing it.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what I’m struggling with :))
I would appreciate any suggestions.
I’ve experienced depression a few times, and I also suffer from a general anxiety disorder. I used to longboard around the city to cope with depression in the past. If I hadn’t forced myself to get outside and skate everywhere, I doubt that I would have been able to get back to my usual self so quickly. I no longer skate, but I started rock climbing three years ago, and it has become my form of meditation.
It was a great article. But one question, is there any limitation for muscle exercise? Some people suffer from joint disease or have weak bones, so they should carefully choose their exercise movements. Can all people do muscle exercise regardless of their physical conditions?
There is definately a lot to find out about this subject. I like all the points you made
The fact that exercise can stimulate the release of endorphins and reduce cortisol levels is remarkable, and it’s great to see that more and more seniors are embracing physical activity to cope with their symptoms of depression. I hope this article encourages more seniors to incorporate exercise into their daily routines and take advantage of its many benefits.
As someone who works with older adults, I have seen firsthand the transformative effects of exercise on mood and overall well-being. However, it’s essential to acknowledge some seniors’ barriers to starting or maintaining an exercise regimen. Factors like mobility limitations, chronic pain, and lack of access to resources can make it challenging for seniors to engage in physical activity. I would love to see more research and initiatives to make exercise more accessible to seniors of all abilities to experience the positive effects on their mental health.