Healthy exercise is important for our health; that tends to be a given for most people. I knew that fundamental principal, but I didn’t understand the scope of it until after I began recovery for my depression.
For four years I have played rugby. It is a brutal, bloody game. But I love it. I started playing in grade 9 and the moment I got onto the field I fell in love with the sport. In fact, I have become slightly prejudice towards all other sports. After all, why wouldn’t you want to watch a game that is faster paced than football and is more emotionally engaging than any other sport? I have gotten numerous injuries, have dealt my fair few too, and would I change anything for it? Nope, absolutely not. It is my sport. It is the only time I feel comfortable on a field.
When I started playing the sport, I immediately noticed two things: that I was in AWFUL shape, and that I started becoming happier. Yes, my depression seemed to lessen while playing the sport.
I never knew that rugby, and more generally, exercise, could help me with my depression.
You see, from a biological point of view when you engage in any physical activity whether it be running, swimming, jogging, playing rugby or football, it releases two things: serotonin and endorphins.
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Now, I am no biologist or kinesiologist, but this is what I’ve learned from a bit of research:
First, serotonin can be found in your gut and your brain. The portion in your brain is what regulates your mood, among other things. High levels of serotonin are synonymous with a “happy” mood, whereas the lack of this chemical is synonymous with “depression.” Lucky for me and those struggling with depression, serotonin can be increased by exercise. The more consistently I exercise, the happier I feel. It’s as simple as that.
Second, endorphins are also released during exercise. Endorphins are essentially “feel good” chemicals that are released in the body when you exercise or are subjected to pain, as they also work as our body’s natural painkillers. Endorphins can give you a sense of euphoria as well as improve your mood. The inevitability of being hurt during rugby is obvious. So, when I played my body often released a high amount of endorphins to the point that I would often get light headed. However, this also contributed to the increase of my good mood and decrease of my depression.
I thank God everyday for these chemicals that He has given me in order to biologically combat my depression.
On the emotional side of exercise and especially rugby, it offers a great outlet for pent-up emotions, anxiety, and allows you to focus on something other than your depression and circumstances. When I’m running (which is also one of my hobbies) I get in “The Zone”; the only thing I think of is “breathe, run, breathe, run.” This rhythm really allows me to focus on nothing but running and it gives me a sense of elation when everything melts away and I only focus on that inner chant.
So, I encourage you if you’re suffering from depression or an addiction or anything to get a healthy amount of exercise in your daily routine. It made my depression manageable, and I have integrated it into my recovery. It works just as well as any outlet, and it also has the handy side effect of becoming in better shape.
However, I warn you: do this in moderation. Over-exercising or compulsive exercise will only land you in worse shape than you are in. Take it easy. You don’t need to run a marathon. Baby steps are the best approach.
I also understand that for some that suffer from compulsive exercise, this may not be something that is good for your recovery. The best way to know this is talking to your therapist or counselor.
I’m so grateful that I decided to play rugby. If not, I don’t know if my recovery would be where it is today and I greatly attribute the sport to helping me through my depression. It is a great tool that I use for my recovery every day, and every tool that we have is one step closer (sometimes literally) to full recovery.
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The opinions and information shared in this article may not represent that of Libero Network Society. We hold no liability for any harm that may incur from reading content on our site. Please always consult your own medical professionals before making any changes to your medication, activities, or recovery process.