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13 December, 2018

7 Great Exercises for Seniors to Beat the Winter Blues

Exercise can help treat depression and is particularly beneficial during the winter months when short, cold days start dragging down our moods. Below, discover 7 easy exercises that are perfect for older adults trying to stay active this winter—and why exercise is so beneficial.

The Benefits of Exercise in the Winter

By increasing circulation and breathing, you provide more stimulus to the brain. A study in the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience indicated that exercise can improve major depressive disorder by helping new neurons grow in the brain.

Even short periods of exercise (such as a 10-minute walk) can relieve anxiety and depression quickly. Occasional exercise is a temporary fix, and some experts compare it to taking an aspirin for a headache.

On the other hand, researchers found that people who exercised vigorously on a regular basis were 25% less likely to develop depression or anxiety over the following 5 years.

Exercise also improves the quality of your sleep. Good sleep lowers stress and prevents depression.

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Related: 3 Exercises to Build a Healthier You

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7 of the Best Exercises for Seniors to Combat Depression This Winter

Here are the best exercises to beat depression:

  1. Running can give you the “runner’s high” via stimulation of neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin. In addition, running can put you in a meditative state, which reduces stress.

  2. Fast walking (or any aerobic activity that generates endorphins) improves your mood and helps fight depression. Aerobic exercise includes dancing, biking, stair climbing, rowing, and swimming.

  3. Hiking in nature lowers stress levels solely because of the exposure to nature.

  4. Yoga provides an extra anti-depression boost because of breathing techniques. Yoga alleviates depression, anger, anxiety, and neurotic symptoms.

  5. Tai Chi is similar to yoga because it emphasizes slow, thoughtful movements and breathing. However, researchers believe the real benefit lies in the social aspects of Tai Chi.

  6. Exercising in the sun can help relieve the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Although this form of depression is more likely to hit northerners during the winter months, if you don’t get sun exposure during the summer, you may be affected, too. The brain produces more serotonin when you’re exposed to the sun, so there’s real evidence sun exposure can affect many types of depression, not just SAD. Make an effort to fight the cold and go outdoors on sunny days this winter.

  7. Bodyweight training is another senior-friendly exercise you may want to try this winter. You don’t have to do any extreme weight-lifting to reap the rewards. Chair squats, wall pushups, and light weight lifting exercises can help boost your mood and prevent muscle loss.

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Related: Warm Winter Fun in Wolfeboro

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How often should you exercise to prevent depression?

WebMD advises exercising a minimum of 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week to ease depression. Exercising more often provides additional benefits. People who don’t exercise much or at all should start with 20 minutes, then build up to 30.

Please note that before starting any new exercise regimen, you should always check with your doctor first.

More benefits of exercise

If you begin exercising to prevent or alleviate depression, you’ll gain added benefits. According to WebMD, exercise:

  • strengthens your heart

  • increases energy levels

  • lowers blood pressure

  • improves muscle tone and strength

  • strengthens and builds bones

  • helps reduce body fat

  • makes you look fit and healthy

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Related: Advice for Conquering This Winter’s Weather

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Exercise at Sugar Hill

Sugar Hill Retirement Community offers regular exercise classes and machines in the fitness center, as well as a regular stretching session in the coffee shop. We also have two miles of hiking trails through wooded areas and along the lake. Nearby, Wolfeboro offers golfing and skiing, as well as boating, fishing, and swimming in Lake Winnipesaukee. View our available homes to learn more.

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