Karen's story: Overcoming depression with exercise

I'm a dance fitness instructor and I just love it! I have a great range of people come to my classes from all walks of life, all ages, and of all abilities. Many people have told me how much they have lost weight and felt better since taking classes.

But dance isn't just about fitness and losing weight, it can also help mentally as well as physically.

A few years ago I was, like many others, struggling with money, work and my physical health (I have carpal tunnel syndrome and Raynaud's disease) and my depression started to rear its head again.

My depression first started many years ago after a bad relationship which resulted in me having to be moved from my home by the police. I then met a fantastic man who, after four years of close friendship and then partnership, sadly died of cancer. I was devastated. Six weeks later, I also lost my job.

I eventually found work and was on anti-depressants to try and help with my depression. I was also suffering with panic attacks.

Four years later, my father died of cancer. I felt that all of my efforts, every day, were spent continuously fighting my depression.

My best friend suggested that I should find something to concentrate on and I discovered Zumba after seeing it on TVĀ one night. I went along to classes and sometimes I had to really force myself to go, even when I didn't feel like I could, as I knew that once I was there I would have so much fun. I then decided to become an instructor and, in April 2010, I became one!

I started to run my own classes and I now have something to focus and concentrate on, as I know that people are relying on me. The exercise has helped me physically as it is one of the best things for my Raynaud's disease, and it has also helped me mentally as, even though I can still get upset at times, I am no longer on anti-depressants and I have found fitness and fun together as 'exercise in disguise'.

I have lots of lovely people come to my classes who have experienced problems, either mentally, physically, or both, and they agree that dance and exercise has helped them too.