Can You Sweat Your Way Through Heartbreak?

When I broke up with the man I once thought of as my soul mate, the emotional pain consumed me.

Over the next six months my body withered. The muscles I was once so proud of disappeared.

I lost over 15 pounds that summer. I was only 115 pounds to begin with. It was obvious I wasn’t in a healthy place.

Dr. Deborah Sarani, psychologist and author of Living With Depression, says profound sadness affects the mind as well as the body. It lowers your immune system, increases blood pressure and heart rate and causes significant muscle weakness.

When I first looked in the mirror after my break up and saw the shell that I became, I knew I needed to take control. So I went to the gym.

It was humbling. I couldn’t lift the weight I was able to just a year before. I was out of breath after a short five minutes on the treadmill. I finished my routine crying in the bathroom stall.

The next morning, though, I was determined to regain my strength.

It took about two weeks of a dedicated routine—legs on Monday, arms on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, abs and core on Thursday and heavy cardio on Friday—to start feeling the results.

Many studies have shown exercise helps people in the battle against depression, which often follows severe heartbreak. The Atlantic and the New York Times detail a few.

Talking with other women who lifted themselves up through exercise felt as empowering as my first squat with 120 pounds.

Amelia, 38, recently turned to archery and knife-throwing to release the stress of a breakup.

“There are sore muscles in my back that I didn’t know existed,” says Amelia.

Julieta, 42, turned to taekwondo, a modern Korean martial art similar to karate. Courtney, 31, took up ballet, a practice she never tried before. Jaymie found yoga.

According to Rachael Dunville, founder of Aerosha, a creative movement and self-discover mentorship program, any activity where you feel a sense of relief is going to benefit you.

“Tune in to what feels good to you,” says Dunville.