It’s that time of year. The winter doldrums are setting in.
Much of the country has been battling frigid temperatures, ice, and snow this season. And even if you live in a more temperate part of the U.S. January and February can still be a real drag.
The experts call it Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But that’s just a fancy term for feeling down or blue.
And if you’re a senior, the chances of being sideswiped by SAD are MUCH higher.
After all, everyone seems so busy these days it’s easy to fall out of touch with friends and family. And when you’re not a spring chicken anymore, bad weather or illness can keep you indoors and away from people, more than you’d like.
But researchers from Canada (where let’s face it they know a thing or two about rough winters) have revealed a simple blues-banishing solution.
One that DOESN’T require heavy-duty drugs or long hours spent on a therapist’s couch hashing out your childhood hurts.
According to the team from McMaster University in Ontario if you’re an older adult good old exercise can send your mood soaring.
And don’t worry, if you aren’t exactly an exercise fan. Once you hear the details, I promise you’re going to feel a LOT more like unseating your seat
“Feel good” tryptophan boosts mood
Here’s how it works…
When you exercise, your system starts pumping out specific proteins. This triggers your body to begin metabolizing tryptophan.
Now if tryptophan sounds a little familiar, there’s a reason for that. It’s the same amino acid you always hear so much about around Thanksgiving since turkey is a good source of the nutrient.
Your body uses tryptophan to process proteins. But it’s ALSO a mood enhancer very closely related to serotonin, the “feel good” hormone.
Many folks with depression have low levels of serotonin in their bloodstream. In fact, some anti-depressant drugs (SSRIs) aim to increase levels of the hormone in the brain. Which can lead to a boost in mood.
And as anyone who has found himself pleasantly zoned out on the couch after Thanksgiving dinner can confirm, tryptophan can make you feel good too.
Regular exercise could fight depression
The McMaster research team recruited a group of guys, 65 or older, to participate in an exercise program.
For 12-weeks, the men stuck to a regular exercise routine.
And the good news for those of us who hope to mimic the results is they DIDN’T have to run marathons or lift hundred-pound weights all day long.
Instead, they divided their sessions up between using resistance bands and pedaling on a stationary exercise bike. In other words, exercises that would be easy to do in the comfort of your own home.
Blood and muscle samples confirmed it worked. The regular workouts sent the guy’s “feel good” chemical levels soaring. Which means exercise alone could very well help fight off depression in older adults.
If you’re feeling a bit down, or battling the winter blues, go ahead and give exercise a try. It could be the key to lifting your mood without resorting to heavy-duty drugs or intensive therapy.
Start small, such as committing to using a set of resistance bands every time a commercial comes on TV for example. And then work your way up to longer sessions.
And if you have a stationary bike gathering dust in the corner consider hopping on and pedaling for a few minutes every day.