"The key is not to focus on the distance or outcome of the exercise, but instead focus on where you are and what you're doing," Dr. Michael Sachs of Temple University, in Philadelphia, explained in an interview.
Both Dr. Raglin and Dr. Sachs
advise never worrying about having an immediate goal, especially a weight loss goal, as it's unrealistic.
They also recommend exercising with a friend or an exercise partner.
"The social aspect is important - it can help to uplift you, and break feelings of isolation," Dr. Sachs
Rhythmic aerobic exercise has been shown to produce a calming, tranquilizing effect.
"One of the benefits of exercising on a regular basis is consciousness alteration, what we call the runner's high," Sachs
The physiological changes and the possibility of experiencing that "runner's high" play a part in mood alteration.
"If you can get out on a track or trail, and get into a rhythm - lose yourself in the activity - without having to focus on your external surroundings, you may experience a distraction that can be helpful in and of itself," he
Being outside in nature - in the daylight - also helps, particularly with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
If the weather prevents outdoor activity, walking inside a mall, or using indoor facilities such as a swimming pool or a treadmill can produce similar results.
Exercising at home
by a window also works.
"Most importantly, choose an exercise or activity you like," Dr. Sachs
Once you've started some kind or regular physical activity, maintaining your routine will help keep the blues at bay.
"The scientific literature is fairly clear that being depressed on the one hand, and physically inactive on the other, go together," said Dr. Sachs