Senior fitness guru: 13 best ways to fight depression with exercise
Marianne Hamilton, Miss Senior Universe, loves to work out. Especially in the pool.
The admitted late bloomer, who shunned fitness and working out in her younger years, has earned nearly 50 gold medals in Senior Games throughout the country since embracing physical fitness.
Hamilton, the senior fitness expert on the Andy Griffin Show, recently compiled a list of things those of us in our more advanced years can do on a daily basis to help fight off depression and loneliness.
"A lot of people later in life are alone. Maybe they've lost a spouse or for whatever reason, have to face the world by themselves. Exercise can do so much for those people beyond the obvious of making their bodies healthy. It can really help them fight depression and loneliness. It's a combination of wonderful hormones and then, of course, the whole mental aspect of feeling better about yourself."
Here's Marianne's list:
1. Start slowly -- If you haven't been exercising or physically fit in the past, you don't want to jump in and try and run 10 miles right away. You just want to start slowly and listen to your body. Don't overdo it right at the start. Walk or run, just get to it. It will lift your mood.
2. Yoga is a good option -- It's all about being more flexible. There are a lot of people who say they can't do yoga, that it's too hard. It doesn't have to be. Like with any exercise, do what you can do. No one expects you to do the really hard poses right from the start. Just concentrate on trying your best and improving a little at a time.
3. Get dirty -- Believe it or not, touching soil can boost a brain chemical called serotonin. That's the chemical that helps us sleep, helps us stay calm. Contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, microbacterium vacci, can trigger the release of serotonin in your brain. I think there's a reason why a lot of gardners are really happy people.
4. Tennis or pickleball -- You can play by yourself by hitting a ball against a wall, but these are so much more fun when you have a partner or even doubles partners. You don't have to join an expensive club. There are so many options for free. And the social aspect of these sports is a huge bonus as well.
5. Exercise at work -- Once an hour, take a few minutes and step away from your desk if you can. Try and find a quiet place and do some stretching if you can. Go up and down those flights of stairs. Just moving can really help to boost your mood.
6. Swimming -- It's a great full body workout and a lot of people find that water really calms them, which is a great thing if you're dealing with depression. Your body is so much lighter in the water and it kind of feels like you're doing something fun, not just exercising.
7. Biking -- Using the many, many bike paths in our area will give you a chance to see the incredible beauty of where we live and also give you a chance to get a workout in. And you don't really need anything special to do it. In fact, the Bicycle Collective here in town will let you come in and work off the price of a bicycle. You go put in five or six hours and you can ride out with a new bike. But please don't forget to wear a helmet.
8. Strength training -- You can use weights or machines or just your own body resistance on the wall. As we get older, strength training becomes more and more important.
9. Walking your dog -- Studies have shown that dog owners on average get 70 percent more exercise than non-dog owners. The animal needs to be walked to do his business. And Fido can help you reduce your stress. There's nothing like the unconditional love of a dog.
10. Dancing -- Pole dancing (at home) can be an incredible form of exercise. It requires tremendous upper-body strength. Any dancing is great. When nobody's watching, turn on your favorite music when you're home by yourself, you can dance. Let your body move. Pretty soon you'll feel empowered and you'll feel better about yourself.
11. Sprinting -- Incorprate three 20 second sprints, separated by maybe a two-minute break, that's as good as 50 minutes of moderate exercise. You might have to work up to that, but I always incorprate three 20-second sorints when I'm teaching classes. The benefits are amazing.
12. Basketball -- You jog, sprint, jump throw -- basketball incorporates all sorts of different activities. You can do it indoors or outdoors. and there are lots of places here in town to play. And the social aspect is huge. You'll make so many new friends.
13. Softball -- If you're going to really be into the game, you need focus -- focus on what's happening and diverting your mind from negative thoughts. That focus gets you out of that depression and also adds to that connection with other people, being a part of a team. And that also gives you accountability.