Reduced Depression for Physically Active

Julie Shenkman
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In today's fast-paced society and lackluster economic environment, more and more people are susceptible to clinical depression. The Centers for Disease Control reports that one in ten United States adults currently suffer from symptoms of depression with over 3 percent suffering from major depression. Current research shows a clear correlation between regular exercise and reduced depression symptoms.

Depression is considered one of the most common types of mental illness and affects the lives of over 350 million people globally. The World Health Organization lists depression as the leading cause of disability in the world. Traditional treatment for symptoms of depression involves medication or psychotherapy or a combination of both. Unfortunately, traditional methods don't prevent recurring instances of depression and in many cases fail to help patients at all. As more studies are conducted, it is becoming clearer that alternative therapies may hold some ground.

While exercise is likely the last thing on the mind of a person who is suffering from depression, the evidence of its importance is mounting: a recent study suggests engaging in physical activity three times a week reduces the likelihood of depression by nearly 16 percent, and for each additional weekly session, the risk drops even more. The UK-based study, conducted by Snehal Pinto Pereira of University College London's Institute of Child Health, followed 11,135 people born in 1958 until age 50 and recorded their depressive symptoms and levels of activity at different points in their lives. Results of the study concluded that with increased physical activity, there was a noticeable decline in symptoms of depression, and this correlation applied to the population as a whole rather than just the subjects who were already at high risk for clinical depression.

In addition to improving depression symptoms, physical exercise has a variety of other benefits that make it an important addition to anyone's regimen. Exercise helps improve and prevent medical problems such as arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. It also prevents and helps to manage obesity and heart disease while reducing stress and anxiety. The physical benefits of exercise can help improve a person's self-image, thereby further decreasing symptoms of depression.

Now that studies confirm the role of exercise in preventing and reversing depression, experts are designing new courses of treatment. The American Psychiatric Association recently released a set of guidelines for treating symptoms of depression. These guidelines outline a more balanced approach than traditional methods and include a combination of medications, therapies, physical exercise and other alternative treatments.

Studies show that any form of exercise can improve symptoms of depression. Some moderate forms of exercise include walking, jogging, biking, dancing, gardening, tennis, low-impact aerobics, swimming and yoga. Social support is also an important aspect of the healing process, so joining a group fitness class may be even more beneficial to handling depression symptoms.


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  • Mary H.
    Mary H.

    This artical has reminded me to get back on the exercise band that keeps me moving, and feeling like I'm on top of the world. So thanks!

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Exercise is good for pretty much anything that ails us. I have fibromyalgia and have to exercise to get through each day. It does help with depression as well as to keep my weight steady. I used to HAVE to do PT in the Navy and I hated it. Now that I don't have to do it, I enjoy it. Go figure! But it really does make a huge difference.

  • Nann  Lang
    Nann Lang

    Moderate exercise is a great way to help with depression. Amongst other things, it can promote blood circulation, helps with digestion, helps with sleep, and promote overall better health. However, some people experiencing depression need some extra help and that's where acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can make a difference. Try it, you will be surprised.

  • Wanda B.
    Wanda B.

    So many people are depressed, and many don't want to admit it or get help. I admit it, and I'm getting help. It's a struggle, but I do walk as well as take the more conventional therapies. As everyone knows exercise is good for your health, mental as well as physical. I hope everyone who is depressed will get help and start exercising.

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