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Fitness As A Coping Mechanism For Mentally Ill Patients

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Many therapists recommend that their patients try things like working out and fitness before attempting to help them with medication. Exercise can make a person natural happy because of endorphins in the body. For some, exercise makes them not need medication. It is a natural remedy for some when it comes to issues like depression and self esteem. While some still need medication and other things to help them, many find that exercise is a better alternative for them as not everyone enjoys being on medication for mental issues. It tends to be a more positive thing also because it gets people out of the house, something that people with depression and other mental health problems struggle with. Fitness can impact mental health positively when dealing with depression, self esteem, and transgender dysphoria.

One of the most common mental illnesses nowadays is depression. Many suggest fitness for people with depression as most do not wish to leave the house, so even getting out of the house for fresh air can help patients. That is also why for some, depression is a seasonal thing. When someone cannot go outside as much because of winter, there is a type of depression one can obtain because of the weather. For some people, exercising could even save their life. Maybe it gives them a passion for something that they did not even realize could be enjoyed. Situations are different for everyone with depression. Usually, people with depression would not be very eager to just get up, get out of the house, and work out. Most would protest the idea or put it off and it never happens for them. For the people that do work out and even just go for small walks during the day, it helps them a lot. A little goes a long way for most people. They do not have to be good at fitness or be fit at all. Just walking around the block for ten minutes can majorly improve someone’s mood.

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Fitness and exercise can also help someone with their self esteem. This can be in a variety of ways. Maybe someone wants to lose weight. Maybe the person just wants to feel stronger for safety purposes. Maybe someone just wants to be in shape and not get so out of breath so fast. There are many different reasons why someone with self esteem might work out. Usually, someone’s self esteem tends to do with weight. So, the most popular reason would most likely be because the person wants to lose weight. With today’s society and pressure to be perfect and skinny, it would not be a surprise if that were the main reason. Women especially are pressured to be stick thin and have perfect bodies. Men are pressured to be thin, yet muscular. If someone is even the slightest bit overweight, society shames them for not being a cookie cut out of what society desires.

Something that ties into the self esteem and fitness idea, is eating disorders. Eating disorders are considered the “cancer” of the mental health world. It slowly damages your body similar to how cancer is. However, it is exclusively in the mind, which is why it is only considered similar to cancer in the mental health field. Fitness can be a negative thing with eating disorders. People who are anorexic might work out excessively in order to lose weight while barely eating, if at all. It makes their bodies run down and exhausted faster. However, there are some people who recover from eating disorders and still are active. This is because they learn to not worry about calories and more about eating enough to keep their body fueled for work outs. Sure, they can struggle and have problems and relapse, but that is all part of recovery. For some people in recovery, working out is seen as a replacement for the other self destructive behaviors like binging or purging. For example, Aaron, a guy from the podcast You’re So Brave started running during his eating disorder recovery. He described it as, “And that’s not in the like ‘I would run so that I could eat’ it was really so like I would run until I couldn’t think of anything except how thirsty and tired I was. And it would really really clear my mind” (3:30). It takes people’s minds off of things that they could have been doing that they were clinging to as coping methods, like binging and purging. It depends on the person. Some are triggered by exercise, and others find comfort and distraction in it.

Something else that fitness provides comfort with is gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is common in the transgender community. Chase Ross, a popular transgender male on YouTube, is also known for being a runner. While being a runner has mainly helped him with his depression in general, he is a good role model for trans guys in the LGBT community who maybe would like to present more masculinely. Ross runs a podcast with his friend Aaron called You’re So Brave that posts once a week both a video and audio version. One of the last podcasts they had done, that was mentioned earlier, was one where they talked exclusively about how fitness and running can help with mental health issues and dysphoria and things in the previous paragraph like eating disorders. While they both acknowledge that you do not have to workout or do anything they say to be happy, they emphasize that it is what worked for them and will not always work for someone else. Everyone is different and experiences different things in their own life, so just because they explain that it helped them with things, it does not mean that it will help everyone who listens to them.

Fitness seems to be a popular coping mechanism for mentally ill patients and transgender people. While there is no shame in taking medications, many therapists are hesitant on giving patients medication when they could be getting outside and exercising instead. Some patients insist on things other than medication as well, so it is not just the therapists suggesting alternatives to medications. It has helped patients with a number of mental struggles such as depression, self esteem and eating disorders, and transgender dysphoria. Knowing this, it could be nicer for most to not be on medication and be working out whether it be with running or strength or cardio. Because of this, fitness impacts mental health and various mental struggles in a positive way.

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