As temperatures drop and days grow shorter, it’s fairly common to experience a mild case of the winter blues. You may feel lethargic, unmotivated and moody. However, for nearly 10 million Americans, seasonal changes lead to a more serious condition. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a recurring form of depression that affects individuals during specific times of the year. Those with SAD may experience anxiety, social withdrawal, oversleeping, food cravings, weight gain and difficulty concentrating. In severe cases, the individual may have thoughts of death or suicide (Source: Mayo Clinic).
Physical activity may not be at the top of your to-do list if you’re struggling with seasonal depression, but it could be just what the doctor ordered. Research has shown that low to moderate level exercise is beneficial in offsetting the symptoms of SAD. Exercise naturally elevates levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood. Aerobic activity – such as walking, distance running, yoga, and cycling – can give your mood a natural boost and help pull you out of that seasonal funk. For additional benefits, move your exercise routine outdoors. You’ll take in some much needed sunlight, which also elevates serotonin levels (Source: Examiner.com).
Exercise may help ease your symptoms of seasonal depression, but it should not be considered a substitute for medical treatment. If you are currently experiencing symptoms of SAD, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider. Your doctor can discuss appropriate treatment options to fit your needs and get you back to enjoying life again.