Avoiding Recession Depression

The economic crisis, shorter days, and the stress of the holidays can be enough to trigger depression for many people. Regular exercise in the beautiful surroundings of southwest Montana offers a great way to battle the winter blues. You can use the following health benefits to justify engaging in those favorite mountain pursuits even when you feel “too busy” or are feeling the winter “blahs.”

Know the Enemy
Few people recognize the seriousness or long-term consequence of living with depression. Depression is often accompanied by disordered sleep and lack of energy. Both of these symptoms can be detrimental to our ability to cope with crises effectively. Although counseling can help to improve mental health and certainly should be used to treat chronic depression, regular exercise has a positive impact on mental health as well.

Get Up, Stand Up
When we get out in the hills around Bozeman to pursue our passions, many physiological changes lead to a healthier mind. Whether you are covering ground outdoors or are indoors on The Moving Belt of Boredom (also known as a treadmill), you are using more energy. Often, simply adding regular exercise helps many people improve the quality of their sleep. In this crazy-happy cycle when we burn more energy, we feel as though we have more energy. So many of my clients now recognize that a quick outing during the day is quite doable and when they sit back down at their desk, they are much more focused and productive.

The Mind as a Muscle
Remember, even during trying times, exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Keeping your mind healthy through exercise will help you to cope with the unique stressors of winter, such as the lack of sunlight and more time with the in-laws. The need for exercise is also a perfect excuse to pursue your passions in the mountains. A simple journey helps the mind, so keep regular exercise in your schedule no matter how busy, broke, or blah you are this winter!

In May 2008, the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Medical Association (AMA) partnered on an important initiative to increase awareness of the health benefits of exercise. The initiative is called Exercise is Medicine, and the idea is to get all physicians to talk their patients, during every visit, about proper exercise. The group calls on healthcare organizations, physicians, and other professionals, regardless of specialty, to assess, to advocate for, and review every patient's physical activity program during every comprehensive visit.

The guiding principles of Exercise is Medicine are as follows:
• Exercise and physical activity are important to health and the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases.
• More should be done to address physical activity and exercise in healthcare settings.
• The ACSM and AMA will bring a greater focus on physical activity and exercise in healthcare settings.

Steve Conant MS, HFI, CSCS, of Alliance Sports Medicine serves on the executive board of the ACSM–Northwest. For more information about the Exercise is Medicine initiative, contact Steve at [email protected].