This article was written by Susan Fernandes, who has over 20 years assisting people as a Registered Nurse. Susan was kind enough to allow me to share her article as one more way to show that biking is awesome!
In the United States, approximately 18.8 million people are affected by depression. That’s approximately 9.5% of our adult population. Of those suffering from depression, about 80 % are not currently being treated.
What is the definition of depression?
· Depression may be described as feeling sad, blue, unhappy, miserable, or down in the dumps. Most of us feel this way at one time or another for short periods.
· True clinical depression is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interferes with everyday life for an extended period of time, usually more than 2 weeks.
Depression may run in families. This can be due to your genes (inherited), learned behavior (environmental), or both. If you are predisposed to depression due to your genetic makeup, you are more likely to experience depression when a stressful or unhappy life event occurs.
What can trigger depression?
· Alcohol or drug abuse
· Childhood events like abuse or neglect
· Chronic stress
· Death of a friend or relative
· Disappointment at home, work, or school (in teens, this may be breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, failing a class, or parents divorcing)
· Drugs such as sedatives and high blood pressure medications
· Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), cancer, or hepatitis
· Nutritional deficiencies (such as a lack of folate and omega-3 fatty acids)
· Overly negative thoughts about one’s self and life, self blame, and ineffective social problem solving skills
· Prolonged pain or having a major illness
· Sleeping problems
· Social isolation (common in the elderly)
· Post Partum (after giving birth)
So as you can see, depression can be triggered by many conditions/events. The purpose of this article is not to diagnose or to suggest any treatments for depression, that is for you to discuss with your physician, but I do want to explain how activity can be a natural mood elevator.
It is not uncommon that when we feel depressed (sad, blue, down in the dumps), mentally and physically we slow down. We don’t want to do anything. It is extremely hard to get motivated. And unfortunately, the less we do, the less we want to do, and then the more we fell depressed. It is a self perpetuating cycle. How do I know this? I’ve lived it. In fact it is something that I still fall prey to at times. So, how can we break this self-defeating, non productive cycle?
Doctors and scientists continue to debate about the different chemicals and hormones that affect our moods and sense of well-being. Some believe that it is a release of “endorphins” by the pituitary gland that lessens the feeling of depression, while others believe it is the serotonin and serotonin uptake receptors that do the trick. Either way, all agree that moderate exercise, 30 minutes/3 times a week, can decrease our feelings of sadness and depression. In fact, it is documented that regular exercise as described can be as effective as many prescribed anti-depressants and work more quickly. If you are currently on medication for depression, I do not recommend that you stop taking it. Instead, continue with your current prescribed plan of medical treatment, but add exercise. Stopping or changing any medication is only at your doctor’s recommendation, but let her/him know about your change in activity and how it makes you feel, and let them decide.
Keep in mind, at times motivation can be a big obstacle, and it is at those times you have to force yourself to just “do it!” My personal preference for exercising is riding a bike. I’m not the most disciplined person, so the flexibility of choosing when I ride suits my personality and schedule. Also as a “plus-size” woman with knee problems, riding a bike is low impact and easy on my joints. In fact, it is a recommended type of exercise for those with arthritis. I admit, I was concerned about a regular bike being able to support my weight, so I did an online search and found www.supersizedcycles.com. They have bicycles and tricycles, and motorized bikes, and they are able to custom make bikes to your specifications. Now I can get out, have fun exercising, and feel better mentally, emotionally, and physically. Oh, and by the way, I still take my medication, but I’m feeling so much better, and I’m even losing weight! As they say, “There is no time like the present, “so decide today, that you won’t be held captive by your own inactivity. Get out there and get moving – you will be glad that you did.
Keep on pedaling!