For those who suffer from depression, it can become a difficult existence. Some days, simply getting out of bed can be a challenge.

Depending on your situation, you may have opted for traditional treatment options. These can include regular therapy sessions, coupled with antidepressants.

While these are fantastic treatments, for many they are not the all-encompassing solution. Surprisingly, the missing link could lie in keeping your body taut and healthy.

We all know running is the secret to staying in shape. However, growing evidence suggests a daily jog may keep the black dog at bay.

A recent landmark study was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. The study focussed on adults with mild to moderate depression. They found that depressive symptoms were cut by half in those who engaged in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. To put this in perspective, participants experienced the same reduction in their depressive symptoms as those taking antidepressants or undergoing cognitive therapy.

Whatever your fitness level, running regularly will help you sleep better, feel happier and have a more positive outlook. The link between exercise and depression isn’t entirely clear. However, regular exercise increases serotonin levels, which increases positive feelings.

Once you are feeling a little better, exercise can help inhibit depressive symptoms returning.

While exercise is certainly not a cure for depression, it can certainly help ease symptoms in several ways. These include:

  • Releasing endorphins, the feel-good hormones, in the brain
  • Reducing chemicals in the immune system that worsen depression, and;
  • Elevating body temperature (which has calming effects).

Regular exercise also has psychological and emotional benefits, such as:

  • Increasing confidence: Reaching personal exercise goals (even small ones) will boost your self-confidence and help you look better too.
  • Taking your mind off worries: Exercise is the perfect distraction from negative thought patterns.
  • More social interaction: Running regularly may give more opportunities to socialise. Offering a friendly smile or engaging in small talk lifts your mood.
  • Developing healthy coping mechanism: Doing something positive, like running regularly is a healthy coping strategy.

Starting any new exercise program can be intimidating, so start slowly. Perhaps start with a gentle jog around the block a few times a week, and then work your way up to a run every couple of days.

While running is effective, it’s not the only exercise to lessen depressive symptoms. By broadening how you think about exercise, you can add plenty of physical activity into your day. For instance, take the stairs instead of the lift, or ride your bike to work a few times a week. After a few weeks of physical activity, you’ll be surprised how much healthier you feel inside and out.