I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about the importance of standing up and the dangers of a sedentary life.
But what I’d like to do today is show you how the literal act of getting up can keep your brain and body healthy.
For instance, every time you get out of bed, your favorite chair, or even up off the toilet, you’re performing a foundational muscle-building and strength-building movement: the squat. And this one exercise, in particular, can help you battle depression and injury.
The Health Benefits of the Squat
About one-third of Americans aged 65 years and older fall each year. And new research is indicating that depressive symptoms are closely associated with an increased risk of taking a tumble.
A study from the University of Michigan showed that a moderate rise in depressive symptoms among older people was linked to a 30% increase in falls within two years.
Now, the doctors responsible for the study indicated that treating people with psychiatric medication was a good way to thwart the risk, but then I thought to myself, “Yeah, it’s pretty easy not to fall when you’re full of tranquilizers and stuck on the sofa!”
Instead, I would say that if you want to reduce the risk of falling while making progress on your battle with depression, starting an exercise routine including squats is a perfect alternative.
Think about it: one of the most common depressive symptoms is a lack of motivation. That means it’s pretty easy to sit around and do nothing, which causes the muscles designed to keep you upright and absorb shock to atrophy.
Well, exercise has been shown to reduce mild depressive symptoms and serve as an excellent motivator. Greater strength, increased blood circulation, and even physique changes all contribute to positive feelings.
Squats, in particular, are a fantastic exercise to help prevent falls. They encourage core and lower-body strength that can help you maintain balance and control over your body.
So if you knock against something or lose your footing, you’ll have the strength to remain upright. And the best part is that you’re already doing them every day without even knowing it!
How to Master the Squat
To practice the squat, I recommend taking a chair—perhaps one around your kitchen or dining room table—and standing in front of it, with your back to it. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
Make sure to keep your core (abdominals) tight throughout the entire motion. Move down slowly—which will be hard at first—until your butt touches the chair. When you move to stand up, I’d like you to focus on keeping your chest and head up, pushing away the floor through your heels and leading with your chest.
Push in a slow controlled motion with your knees pointing slightly outward or straight over your toes, until you’re in an upright position…and voila! You’ve performed the squat! Once you’ve come to the top, repeat the squat as many times as you can.
Squats, in particular, are a fantastic exercise to help prevent falls. They encourage core and lower-body strength that can help you maintain balance and control over your body. You’ll get stronger over time, so to increase the difficulty (which is beneficial) remove the chair and eventually hold weights or use bands to add resistance. Also, squats will work even better at building strength, improving depressive symptoms, and reducing the risk of falls when they’re included as part of a full exercise program.
You’ll get stronger over time, so to increase the difficulty (which is beneficial) remove the chair and eventually hold weights or use bands to add resistance. Also, squats will work even better at building strength, improving depressive symptoms, and reducing the risk of falls when they’re included as part of a full exercise program.
Before beginning any exercise program, you should talk to your doctor. Furthermore, this is a recommendation to help treat mild depressive symptoms. If you have more severe depression, speak with your doctor for the best total-treatment approach.
Craft, L., “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed,” Prim C are Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 2004; 6(3): 104–111; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/, last accessed June 7, 2017.
Lee, I., “Balance Improvement by Strength Training for the Elderly,” J Phys Ther Sci., Dec. 2013; 25(12): 1591–1593. Published online Jan. 8, 2014. doi: 10.1589/jpts.25.1591.
Dallas, M.E., “Depression Often a Precursor to Falls in Elderly People,” MedlinePlus, May 26, 2017; https://medlineplus.gov/news/fullstory_165985.html, last accessed June 7, 2017.