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Can Exercise Help Treat Depression?
Although some people claimed they felt depressed after the final page of the seventh Harry Potter book, depression can be a serious issue regardless of reading preferences. Symptoms include a change in appetite, loss of energy, and feelings of helplessness. But one route to recovery may start with some sneakers: Consistent exercise can join the ranks with other depression treatments, helping to boost mood and combat feelings of gloom .
Battling Blues — Why It Matters
Health professionals give regular exercise a gold star for helping prevent disease, keeping off excess weight, and even spicing up that sex life. Another benefit is that different types of physical activity, from aerobic exercise to qigong, can help lessen depressive symptoms . One study found walking and jogging a few times a week was generally as effective as antidepressants in reducing symptoms of depression. But it’s not only aerobic workouts that do the trick— researchers found depressed elderly people who trained at high intensities several times weekly saw improvement in their quality of life and sleep . (Extra credit for older folks hitting the weight room, too!)
Besides increasing levels of feel-good endorphins, scientists suggest physical activity may work like antidepressant drugs to alter brain chemistry . Staying in shape can also help us gain confidence and distract us from worries. And here’s perhaps the happiest fact of all: In patients diagnosed with depression, exercise may not only relieve sad symptoms, but could also help keep out symptoms for good. (Looks like Zumba may have more advantages than we think.)
Sweat Away Sadness — The Answer/Debate
Getting on the running gear is rarely a bad idea. But so far, research hasn’t proven a few laps around the track will prevent the blues from arriving in the first place. One study failed to find evidence that exercise could reduce the risk of depression in vulnerable populations. Other research suggests exercise improves depressive symptoms only moderately . And exercise may not help treat depression in all people. According to one study, light exercise helps depressed women slightly more than it helps men .
It’s especially important to make physical activity a priority when feeling down, since research suggests people who are depressed are less likely to exercise. A therapist can help create an individual treatment plan for depression that might include some exercise. Along with eating well, getting enough sleep, and spending time with family and friends, getting a move on for 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week, can help keep that smile around.
When feeling sad, do you find working out helps? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Photo by Jordan Shakeshaft
- Exercise for depression. Mead, G.E., Morley, W., Campbell, P., et al. School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD004366.⤴
- Qigong as a psychosocial intervention for depressed elderly with chronic physical illnesses. Tsang, H.W., Cheung, L., Lak, D.C., et al. Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Hong Kong. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2002 Dec;17(12):1146-54. ⤴
- A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. Singh, N.A., Stavrinos, T.M., Scarbek, Y., et al. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Central Sydney Health Service, New South Wales, Australia. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2005 Jun;60(6):768-76.⤴
- Endorphins and Exercise. Harber, V.J., Sutton, J.R. Sports Medicine. 1984 March-April;1(2):154-71.⤴
- Exercise for depression. Mead, G.E., Morley, W., Cambell, P., et al. School of Clinical Sciences and Community Health, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD004366.⤴
- Depression and exercise in elderly men and women: findings from the Swedish national study on aging and care. Lindwall, M., Rennemark, M., Halling, A., et al. School of Social and Health Sciences, Halmstad University, Halmstad, Sweden. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 2007 Jan;15(1):41-55.⤴
Comments Leave a comment
Any type of Cardio seems to work well for me. In my experience it comes down to, the harder I workout the better I feel about myself and in turn, the less depression I have.