Seasonal affective disorder or SAD can leave you feeling tired and blue. You may crave carbs, gain weight and feel grumpy. The blues generally descend around September and begin to lift around April. If you experience SAD or the winter blues you are not alone. SAD effects about 5% of the population. The good news is that you are also not without options for feeling better. In addition to light therapy and medication, exercise has been shown to ease symptoms of SAD including anxiety, stress and depression. Here are some exercise ideas to help you manage seasonal affective disorder.
Go for a walk
Going for a walk is a healthy way to manage SAD. This moderate aerobic activity boosts endorphins and thus your mood. Using a treadmill is great but you can make your walk especially effective against SAD by taking it outside. The lift you get from sunlight will help shift your outlook. The changing scenery, along with the fresh air, will also help you focus your attention on the present moment instead of the endless ruminating in your head. Even a regular 15 minute walk can help.
Join a class
The winter blues may leave you feeling like all you want to do is stay home in bed. Why not head to aerobics or spin class instead? Social connections are particularly important for managing the depression that accompanies SAD. As much as possible head to the gym to enjoy the mood boosting benefits of music, movement and camaraderie. You are almost certain to leave feeling better.
Dance the night (and the blues) away
You’ll get just as much out of dancing at your favorite hotspot as you will dancing in your living room. Crank up the tunes and give yourself over to the beat. Dancing is good exercise. It is fun and a great way to get a break from seasonal affective disorder.
Take control when you can
Studies have shown that exercise is at least as effective as anti-depressants for managing mild depression. Grab a buddy (it could even be your dog or mp3 player) and aim for 150 minutes per week. If that seems too much, just start where you are. Some days you may be up to a brisk 30 minute walk or jog, on other days you might work in your garden a bit and sometimes you may not feel up to doing much at all. That is okay. The important thing is to take each day individually and plan a self-care strategy as your mood and energy level allow. Do as much as you can when you are able. Choosing to exercise this control can help you feel like you have some power against the impacts of SAD.