So much has been written on the benefits of exercise when battling depression. At this point if you have a psychiatrist / doctor / psychologist who doesn’t recommend increasing exercise in order to help alleviate your depression then you need to get yourself a new psychiatrist / doctor / psychologist. The Institute of Health has a really good breakdown on the benefits of exercise for people with depression. I recommend checking it out if you want a refresher.
So much is written on the benefits but why isn’t anybody giving practical advice for actually exercising when you have depression? Most of the advice assumes you are able to put your depression on hold long enough to get a workout in.
All I read about is that I should get out in nature and exercise more. I’m always told I should get my heart rate up and enjoy the sunshine. Even my coach texts me telling me how beautiful the day is and that’s why I should go for a run. Look, I get it. I should exercise when I’m depressed. I also know I live in a beautiful area where most of the days are postcard gorgeous. It doesn’t matter. I have clinical depression.
I don’t care if we get a once in a lifetime sunset and Kate Upton’s doing burpees on my front lawn. Believe me, my blinds are shut and the world doesn’t exist.
This year I’ve resigned myself to bodyweight exercises, yoga and anything else I can do without opening my front door. I guess I can now take comfort knowing that I’ll be able to keep my fitness level up if I’m ever put on house arrest.
Often, when my depression is really crushing me, not even a home workout is happening. That’s why I’m grateful I downloaded Human.co a few months ago.
Please know that I was never asked to write about this app. I don’t have a relationship with the people who make Human. I just use it every day, I’ve seen how it helps my family and I want more people to give it a try.
Human is an iPhone app that tracks your activity all day. People don’t realize that the iPhone is great at tracking subtle movement in addition to large-scale positioning like GPS. An app like Human can tap into that power and transform your iPhone into a pretty sweet wearable fitness monitor without the added expense that modern monitors come with.
Where Human differs from other trackers is that it really ‘gameifies’ your daily life, to paraphrase their website, it turns your world into the gym. Now, if you can’t get to the gym you can still feel good about yourself if you walked the dog or took the stairs or didn’t park right at the curb.
Even more, with their recent update you can compete with family and friends which our family has found especially helpful.
The app starts off encouraging you to hit 30 minutes of activity each day. As it becomes easier for you to hit 30 minutes a day you can increase your minimum to make it more of a challenge.
‘I think I’ll walk,’ How Human tricks me into moving
When I first started using the app I was surprised by how often I could get a good amount of activity in. It is pretty common for me to cross over 100 minutes a day. I was also surprised at how hard it was to just do 30 minutes some days. My weeks would have three days in a row where I was over 100 minutes and then a day where I couldn’t get past 17. It was really interesting to see.
Beyond geeking out over self-analysis you experience this nudge from within pushing you to find extra minutes in the day. I shared the app with my family and everyone had a similar experience. We all started trying to figure out ways to be more active throughout the day. We started finding the time in uncommon places. First I was surprised to find out how much I actually pace around my home during the day. I do it even more now. I also started walking places a lot more. There are restaurants and stores across the street from us and since downloading the app I have ditched my car keys. My wife takes the dog for more walks and has started doing more exercising at home in the evening to keep her minutes up. When my parents came to visit my Dad would excuse himself at 10pm some nights to go for a walk around the neighborhood. He wanted to keep his streak going.
It has been really fun to see this happen in my family and I hope that, by sharing the app, you will get to experience it as well.
A family that takes an extra walk to the mailbox together…
My parents live 1,000 miles away and we really only see each other once a year. Human has added an extra element to our family communication. Now we see when someone crosses a milestone or logs a lot of minutes in one day. We celebrate that and encourage each other in our family group text.
Celebrating little wins is vital when you are trying to survive with depression. You can go long periods where it seems like you aren’t making any progress at all. I’ve talked before about how depression changes the rules. One of the things you have to do is start celebrating the little wins. And I’m talking little wins. It could even be as small as brushing your teeth but in this case we’re talking just 30 little minutes a day.
If we can get each other past depression, past overwork, past packed schedules to get in 30 minutes a day we can celebrate having much healthier and happier lives.