Normally, exercise should boost your boost your mood and leave you feeling energized and ready to face the rest of your day. These feelings largely occur due to the release of "feel-good" chemicals known as endorphins, which are produced by your body when you exercise.
Endorphins serve to reduce your perception of pain and improve your mood. But don't beat yourself up if you feel depressed after a workout. Instead, examine what's going on inside and see if you might be your own worst enemy.
Don't Overdo It
Stick to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans when you want to map out your week's physical activities. Between 150 to 300 minutes is optimum. Too little and you're just this side of sedentary. Too much and that could open a whole new can of worms. An obsessive desire to exercise more and more can leave you feeling depressed and unworthy if you can't meet your goals.
Plan your workouts in advance so you'll not only have something to look forward to but a guideline that will keep you at the optimum level of exertion.
Ditch Unrealistic Expectations
Sometimes, people feel depressed after exercise when they set expectations that are too high or impossible to achieve. Perhaps your feelings of depression are stemming from a heavy mental burden of unrealistic expectations.
Perhaps you've set an impractical weight-loss goal and you feel down about not having met it. Or perhaps you've set out with guns blazing, expecting that you're going to exercise every day for an hour, and your body and mind resist your efforts. Reevaluate your fitness goals to see if you might be setting the bar too high.
Not All Black or White
Extremist thought patterns can be another reason you feel depressed after working out. Maybe you feel like you didn't put in 100 percent during your workout and you're mentally beating yourself up for minor or perceived "failures." You might have adopted an all-good or all-bad pattern of thinking. You don't cut yourself any slack and you leave no room for error.
According to an article in Psychology Today, people who think in extremes and have a black-and-white, all-or-nothing mindset are more likely to feel depressed. Replace negative thought patterns with more positive concepts. It's OK not to be perfect. And everyone occasionally feels like they didn't do enough. Forgive yourself, move on and focus on improving your next workout.
Gaining Instead of Losing
You might be putting a tremendous amount of effort into your workout and busting your butt on a daily basis. But when it comes time to weigh in, you're shocked to find that instead of losing, you've actually gained a pound or two. When you return to the gym, you might not feel as much enthusiasm or energy for your workout.
Afterward, you might be asking yourself, "What's the point?" and wondering why you've expended so much effort for what might seem to be little or no reward. But don't panic. According to personal trainer William Sukala in an article for Weight Watchers, a number of factors can cause short-term weight gain after you exercise, including changes in body composition and water weight.
And the scale doesn't always immediately reflect the positive changes you've made to your body. Stick with your workouts and shift your focus to becoming healthier, leaner and stronger. This might help you fend off feelings of depression or anxiety after a workout.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Exercise Is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression
- Weight Watchers: Ask the Personal Trainer: Weight Gain With Exercise?
- Psychology Today: 8 Ways to Catch All-Or-Nothing Thinking
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Psychology Today: How Your Mental Health Reaps the Benefits of Exercise