Exercise for Depression

Depression remains a condition that does not have a single explanation nor a single treatment. Learning and understanding how to approach and treat depression is more important than ever, considering how common it is and how much suffering it can cause.

Conventional medicine offers antidepressant medications and other medication treatments for depression. Antidepressants work well for someone people and do not cause side effects, and for others they do not relieve all the symptoms and cause a lot of side effects. So having alternative treatment options for depression is key. 

Can Exercise Cure Depression?

Exercise is such an natural treatment for depression and anxiety. According to Michael Otto, a professor of Psychology at Boston University, many clinicians have been very slow in accepting the major importance of exercise in treating depression.

In 2006 Otto and his his colleagues reviewed 11 studies that dealt with the effects of exercise on mental health. The conclusion was clear, “clinicians should consider adding exercise to the treatment plans for their depressed patients.”

We Were Born To Feel Good

If we look at it from a biological point of view, all actions necessary for the survival of our species (socializing, sexual contact, physical work) also come with a cocktail of “feel good” neurochemicals in our brains that keep us coming back for more.

Exercise hooks us through increased oxygen intake combined with endorphins, our natural opiate feel good molecules that get released with exercise.

Studies that date back to 1985 have shown that along with conventional therapy, it is advisable to prescribe exercise to your patients. An article published in the British Medical Journal in July 13, 1985 states that patients with a 15-30% oxygen uptake experience major antidepressive effects.

Year after year, study after study, the evidence keep piling that exercise is beneficial for depression patients. A study from 2007, led by James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at the Duke University supports this claim.

In his study that lasted 4 months Blumenthal tested the connection between mood and exercise in 4 groups of subjects:

1.     Supervised exercise

2.     Home-based exercise

3.     Antidepressant therapy

4.     Placebo therapy

After 4 months of treatment Blumenthal concluded that patients from the first three groups had higher rates of remission.

Aside from helping alleviate depression, exercise helps deal with relieving anxiety as well. Just like anxiety attacks, exercise speeds up the heart-beat, allowing the patient to deal with the feared symptoms in a regulated environment. Exercise also helps to relieve anxiety through many other mechanisms.

In 2013 Professors George Mammen and Guy Faulkner from the University of Toronto reviewed 25 studies that examined the relationship of Physical Activity and depression. The reviewed studies were conducted in the past 26 years. The conclusion: “Physical activity may serve as a valuable mental health promotion strategy in reducing the risk of developing depression.”

Exercise Programs for Depression

An ambitious exercise program is not necessary and beginning with walking and gradually increasing the exercise program is OK.

According to Dr. Jane Erb, Director of depression Center, Brigham and Womens Hospital, (Boston, MA.) exercise can completely take the place of anti-depressant drugs. In her program she states that Regular exercise is critical to depression recovery.

In a recent review named “Physical Exercise for Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Critical Review,” authors  found that exercise positively impacts mood disorders, and conditions frequently comorbid with mood disorders (i.e. anxiety, pain, and insomnia).

The conclusion: “Exercise appears to be a promising adjunct treatment for mood disorders.”

Every year researchers and scientists are learning something new about the various benefits of exercise. Here’s are some of the key effects exercise has on our bodies:

·       Our heart-rate speeds up

·       The digestive system speeds up

·       Endorphins (feel good molecules) are released

·       Cognitive function improves

·       Release of tension from the body

·       Better sleep

If you wish to see more of the benefits exercise brings to the table watch this video.

Actionable advice for Starting to Exercise As Soon As Possible

1.     Find the exercise and setting that suits YOU the most – some people prefer running outdoors, others cycling inside their home or going to the gym. The more you’re excited about your workout the better the chances you’ll succeed.

2.     Failing to prepare means preparing to fail – Get your stuff ready from the previous night, all your clothes and accessories need to be near the door. Once you get up simply put them on, and begin your routine.

3.     Don’t forget, it takes 21 days to form a habit, circle the days you spend working out – push yourself to get to day 21, and it becomes easier.