Can Moving Your Body Reduce Depression?

I recently made an interesting and accidental discovery.

If you’ve been following me for a while you probably already know that I’m mainly into music and affiliate marketing.

I also spend a lot of time looking for ways to deal with a crushing and crippling depression that haunts me every day of my life like an annoying and unrelenting Ghost.

Today I’m talking the Depression part – and another way I’ve found to deal with it.

Depression is Funny

The funny thing about Depression is you never know when it’s going to hit.

  • One day you’re fine, enjoying life and feeling great.
  • The next day you’re in a coma and can’t get out of bed.

It was on one of these coma days that I was laying in bed feeling awful and digging through my iPhone for fun.

I came across my iPhone’s Health App by accident. It showed up when I was typing in the search box, looking for something else.

It’s bright orange and has beautiful analytics so it caught my eye. I opened it up and what I saw blew my mind. It also made a lot of sense.

health-app-depression

The Health app runs in the background, whether you want it to or not. It logs your steps. So every time you take a step, the phone jiggles and the Health app tracks it.

I was looking at the stats for the current week and I saw a pattern. (I’m an analytics and stats junkie, so I immediately got interested)

Some days, my steps were high, 8,000 or more. Other days were very low… 200 or less.

On this particular coma day I had logged only 200 steps. That was pretty much walking to the bathroom, to the kitchen and back to bed.

I thought back over the previous few days where I’d felt better and had a good time and wondered what my steps where on those days.

Each of those good days had 7,000 – 10,000 steps logged.

That’s when it clicked.

As soon as I realized what was going on, I got out of bed, put on my shoes and went for a walk.

Sure enough, as soon as I stepped outside I started to feel better.

The sun was shining and birds were chirping. Homeless people were yelling about the Government being run by aliens.

I felt a little better with every step I took.

I kept going until I had about 4,000 steps logged and went back home.

I’d figured it out another little piece of the puzzle.

Number of steps = level of happiness.

It Makes Sense

On the days where I’d logged 10,000 steps I was out and about. I was spending time with friends. I went to a comedy club, or met someone for coffee or a meal. I’m out there Jerry, and I’m llllovin’ every minute of it.

That makes sense, because I’m also pretty sure that the number of people I see per week also has a big impact on whether I feel good or not.

Every conversation, new surrounding, people watching session, handshake and hug adds another little piece of happiness.

I don’t think humans were meant to spent more than a few days alone at a time.

But socializing can become exhausting and I don’t want to be out and about every day.

So I’ve been “faking it”.

Fake It Til’ Ya Make It

On days that I don’t feel like being around people I make sure to get about 10,000 steps anyway. 8000 at a minimum.

Doing this ‘mimics’ the activity level I would have if I were out being social. So far it seems going through the motions like this works pretty well, but not was well as actually hanging out with friends.

One day I hit 13,000 steps. That was a really great day. It definitely helps. Movement is definitely part of it.

I’m no doctor, but it works for me.

Maybe you can try it too.

How To Track Your Steps

First, pull out your iPhone and search for the Health app. With any luck it’s already installed and tracking. If not, make it so.

If you don’t have an iPhone use whatever your phone uses. MyFitnessPal also tracks your steps if you have it turned on.

Ok, now that you have your app ready, here are a few ways to get more steps per day.

By the way – I only worry about number of steps. Don’t get caught up trying to track stairs climbed, walking vs running, etc. or it gets confusing and becomes hard work.

Need help?: Click here for full step by step iPhone and Android instructions

How To Get More Steps Per Day

  1. Morning Cardio. Every morning I do 10–20 minutes on the treadmill in my building. It gets my blood pumping, wakes me up and burns a few calories. A normal session gets about 2000 steps. I listen to music or check social networks and the session is over before I know it. If you don’t have a treadmill, go outside.
  2. 30 minute walk. Every afternoon I go outside, set my phone alarm for 15 minutes and start walking. When the alarm goes off I turn around and walk home. This gets another 2000–3000 steps.
  3. Smoke breaks. I don’t smoke cigarettes, but I’ve been taking smoke breaks. Every hour or so I step outside and wander around a bit. This adds another 500 or so steps to the day each time.
  4. Be Social. Go out and see some friends or family. Walking to the car, into the restaurant and moving around throughout the evening can add another 1000–5000 steps depending on what you do.
  5. Hiking. Wanna get serious? Go for a hike. Take off for an hour or so in a park, in the hills or just on the sidewalk. You’ll sweat, your mind opens up and you might get a little sun tan. An hour-long hike can add another 5000 steps.

There are just a few ideas. The point is to just move more. Do jumping jacks if you have to.

It Works For Me

If you do a few of these on a regular basis my guess is you’ll start to feel better. I know I do.

steps-tracker

This is a recent screen shot of my steps. My average has gone from 1300/day to over 9000/day. This increase has made a major difference.

And if you have a day where you don’t want to get those 8,000+ steps you can just sit at home and feel like crap. There’s no law against it.

But if you do that, do it knowing that it probably won’t be the best day ever.

And knowing why you feel like crap is much better than sitting around going “WHY ME GOD? WHY MUST I SUFFER!!??”

It’s no big deal… Just get moving.

Speaking of…

I’m going for a walk.

See you outside.

  • John James Robbins

    What has killed my depression effectively is Mindfulness Meditation where I concentrate on NOTHING for 10 mins a day, as well as being mindful consciously, so I can tell where anger, depression and other negative emotions begin, and I am getting to the point now where I can sense when I am going to be depressed before the depression starts.
    And just like you the way to change it is to go walking, because this triggers endorphins and you get that rush of ecstacy that overrides the depression.
    And this makes perfect sense because emotions are the chemical parts of your brain producing a certain chemical reaction, and doing something consciously causes the chemical reaction which causes the mood.

  • Matt

    Moving does’ submit depression dude! I struggle with it all the the time. Thank you for confirming it. You have a gift! I love your emails. I have a email list that gets opened soon after arival….it’s real small. I’m a ruthless ground and pound expert when it comes to beating out loser and winner emails. You’re a winner in my book. Thank you much

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      haha nice — glad i made the cut

  • Dennis Felyx

    Ok, I tried meditation and it didn’t help me. What helped me is – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
    It could be that you have liver issues, for example, and that affects your emotional life.

    I remember that I already posted something about it in your blog. Have you been diagnosed by a good TCM doctor (preferable a Chinese who studied in China)?

  • Hulda

    Have you tried the bloodtype diet? It has helped a lot of people with a great variety of problems. I know there are different opinions about this diet, but give it a try Malan. At least one week. I feel your pain..