Depression, sleep disorders, negative carousels of thought – more and more people in the western world are affected. A drug that can be had for free and doesn’t even have side effects can protect: exercise.
When running therapist Joanna Zybon enters the Plotzensee correctional facility in Berlin, she becomes “trainer Joe”. The prisoners come to her with addiction disorders, depression or sleep disorders.
Running as medicine? In prison, training with her is not just a welcome change from the monotonous everyday life. The word has gotten around that fitness is about more. The goal: to clear your head step by step. The inmates understood a very important point.
Even moderate exercise works like an antidepressant
Studies show that aerobic exercise – that is, one that manages with moderate intensity – even has an antidepressant effect. Nothing is better suited to reducing stress than sport. And yet, after a hard day’s work, many prefer to fall exhausted onto the couch. Because sport is exhausting. This effort is part of the mechanism of action.
Exercise puts stress on your stress hormones
“The stress hormones such as cortisol are balanced,” explains sports scientist Prof. Ingo Frobose from the sports university in Cologne. “This happens by setting a stimulus that tenses us, which is followed by relaxation.” The more stress you have, the more sport you have to do to balance. It is not the type of sport that counts, but intensity and dosage. However, everything depends on the motivation, because to feel an effect you have to move regularly.
Cora S. Weber, specialist for psychosomatics and internal medicine, also dealt a lot with movement and psyche. According to her, three times 45 minutes of aerobic exercise a week helps against depression, so it has been shown to lighten the mood. “The sport even relieves anxiety,” knows the chief physician at the Berlin Park Clinic Sophie Charlotte. Stress also arises with fear, which is released by the movement. But there is something else that is crucial: sport distracts from fear.
It’s best to start with walks
Weber recommends running against the prison in the head because it is one of the first skills that humans learn. And because the implementation is so easy. “Basically, however, you have to choose the endurance sport that you enjoy doing.” Prof. Froböse not only sees advantages in endurance sport: “You don’t have to come to me with yoga, but if you enjoy doing it, you should do it.” as good as. The focus on breathing is meditative, muscles are tense and relaxed.
“No matter what you do, you remain subjectively underwhelmed,” advises the sports expert. Bloody beginners should best start with brisk walking, jogging overwhelms most. “Every kind of movement is good, go for a walk after your work, walk to the S-Bahn.” And again: keep going. “After eight to ten weeks there is usually a low level of motivation that you should be prepared for,” says Froböse. “Reward yourself or hang a target on the fridge.” However, reaching into the fridge does not help: it numbs the discomfort for a moment at the most, but does not overcome it.
Movement is bad when it causes additional stress. This can be the case if a sport is practiced too intensely and frequently or if it is not fun.