How Exercise Can Help Treat Depression and Anxiety
Written by Laura Schwecherl on July 10, 2013
Anyone can experience a bout of the blues when a favorite character on Game of Thrones dies, but clinical depression can be long-lasting and debilitating. Symptoms include a change in appetite, loss of energy, and feelings of helplessness; and those who suffer from depression often experience significant anxiety as well.But one route to recovery may start with some sneakers: Consistent exercise can join the ranks with other treatments for depression and anxiety, helping to boost mood, combat feelings of gloom, and prepare the brain to better handle stress 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.Physical exercise prevents stress-induced activation of granule neurons and enhances local inhibitory mechanisms in the dentate gyrus. Shoenfeld, T.J., Rada, P., Pieruzzini, P.R., et al. Department of Psychology, Neuroscience Institute, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. Jouranl of Neuroscience 2013 May 1;33(18):7770-7..
Gearing up for a workout is rarely a bad idea. But while exercise may help reduce depression and anxiety once they’ve become an issue, so far, research hasn’t proven that 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 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.. Plus, exercise may not help treat depression the same way across the board: According to one study, light exercise helps depressed women slightly more than it helps men 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.. And when it comes to anxiety, some scientists say exercise works best in conjunction with medicationExercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. Carek, P.J., Laibstain, S.E., Carek, S.M. Department of Family Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, USA. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine 2011;41(1):15-28.. Still, 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 or tweet the author at @lschwech.Photo by Jordan ShakeshaftThis article originally posted December 2011. Updated July 2013.