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Exercise and Pilates for Treating SAD

Exercise and Pilates for Treating SAD

Are you feeling the winter blues?

With the long months of cold and darkness, it’s normal to feel some lethargy and lack of motivation. But for some folks, the winter season can wreak serious havoc in the form of Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.

Fortunately, there are many techniques for managing this condition. Among them is using exercise and other forms of movement such as Pilates for treating SAD.

What Is SAD?

SAD is a type of depression that’s specific to the seasons. In the vast majority of cases, people with SAD feel moody, fatigued, and completely uninspired starting in late autumn and continuing through the winter months. (It is possible to experience SAD during the late spring to summer months as well – though this is less common.)

In both cases, symptoms typically start out mild then become increasingly severe as we move deeper into the season. People who suffer with winter season SAD report listlessness, low energy, difficulty concentrating, loss of interest in enjoyable activities, sleeping too much, and overeating. In severe cases, they may feel hopeless, worthless, guilty, or even suicidal.

Nobody is entirely sure why some people experience this disorder. Some postulate that the decrease in sunlight disrupts circadian rhythms and throws off our internal clocks. It may also trigger a drop in serotonin which is a neurotransmitter that affects mood. The balance of melatonin (which regulates sleep) is also thrown off during the winter months.

Techniques for Managing SAD

If you’re feeling that your depressed mood is more than just the winter blues, light therapy is a great place to start. By sitting a few feet from a special light box within the first hour of waking up each day, your brain will be stimulated to create chemicals such as serotonin that can improve mood. You’ll need to purchase a special light box with a full spectrum bulb that mimics natural sunlight for this to be effective. 

Another option for treating SAD is psychotherapy, also called talk therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy is particularly helpful. And in cases where SAD is severe, a doctor may recommend an antidepressant treatment.

Adding exercise and movement to any (and all) of these treatments will also go the distance in managing dark moods as well. 

Using Movement, Exercise, and Pilates for Treating SAD

Whether you’re dealing with the standard blah feeling that comes with winter or struggling with SAD, exercise will help alleviate that lethargic feeling. We know. It’s tough to get motivated to get to the gym or Pilates studio when you’d rather curl up under a blanket and binge watch Downton Abbey or Empire.

But here’s the deal.

Regular exercise that includes resistance, flexibility, and balance exercises such as those found in Pilates and GYROTONIC® have been shown to reduce depressive symptoms. This is because performing exercise regularly can elevate your mood by increasing a brain protein called BDNF that stimulates nerve fiber growth. 

In addition, meditative movement where you pay attention to bodily sensations, position in space, and breathing is also effective in alleviating depressive symptoms. It turns out that changing your posture and breathing can also change your brain. The result is a reduction in stress and anxiety and an increased sense of well-being.

It makes sense though. We know that the mind and body are intimately connected. The brain controls the way your body moves. So the way in which you move will have an impact on how you think and feel. 

Then there’s the social aspect.

The Power of Social Connection

When you’re feeling down, your inclination may be to isolate and crawl into a cave. And you can certainly partake in physical exercise and meditative movement on your own. It’ll help. (Even in a cave.)

However, a study done in 2014 shows that when you move in synchronicity with someone else, there’s a boost to self-esteem.

The study required participants to interact with another person via a video link while performing exercises. They could either intentionally synchronize their movement with the other person, or not.  

In cases where the subjects intentionally synchronized their movement, they had higher self-esteem than when they did not. Previous studies have also found evidence that synchronizing your movement with others makes you like them more and feel more charitable toward them. And it also makes you feel better about yourself, too. 

Plus, the sheer act of getting out and into an environment with other people all working toward the same goal is also a huge boost to the mood. There’s much to be said for solidarity.

Especially in these long, cold winter months.

Looking For Some Light?

Winter is cold, dark, and long in this part of the country. But you’re fortunate to have access to exercises and movement systems such as GYROTONIC® and Pilates for treating SAD and other general malaise that comes with the season. 

So if you’re looking to boost your mood, health, and self-esteem, contact us today. Our skilled instructors will get your body moving and your brain activated to help you move forward with confidence.

Remember, spring isn’t too far on the horizon! 

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