Thursday, February 14, 2013
Article # 307. Treating Depression With Exercise
When you are feeling low and blue, hitting the gym might be the last thing you want to do. However, doctors are now prescribing one thing to treat depression: exercise.
According to experts study, exercise may be as effective at treating mild depression as the antidepressant Zoloft, which is great news for those interested in more natural treatments. Because exercise raises serotonin and dopamine levels in the body, many are turning to exercise as a way to manage depression and its symptoms.
How does exercise work in treating depression? Along with the obvious benefits, such as improved body tone and self-image, there are also chemical benefits:
• Exercise is thought to increase the chemical Phenylethamine (PEA), which causes the phenomenon of “runners high”. (PEA is also a key ingredient in chocolate, so think how happy THAT makes you!)
• It reduces the stress hormone cortisol, frequently dubbed “The Stress Hormone”. Though cortisol can produce a quick burst of energy (most commonly associated with the “fight or flight” response), prolonged exposure to cortisol can have many negative effects, from impaired cognitive function to higher cholesterol. These symptoms can easily exacerbate a case of depression.
• Never underestimate the power of a good nights’ sleep! Exercise helps regulate sleep patterns. Lack of sleep can cause low energy, feelings of hopelessness and difficulty concentrating, all symptoms related to depression. At the same time, people who suffer from hypersomina also can suffer negative health consequences such as diabetes and obesity, not to mention the simple fact that sleeping too much prevents you from going out and doing the things you love!
• Exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers, which an help alleviate many of the ache and pains that are the physical side-effects of depression. Why take drugs with potentially harmful side-effects when your body can produce its own natural anti-depressant!
How much should you exercise do you need to reap its anti-depressive benefits? The magic number to remember when you are exercising, no matter the activity, is 30. According to Health magazine, “30 minutes or more of vigorous exercise has been shown to improve the symptoms of depression. In one study, patients who worked out regularly on a treadmill or stationary bike for 12 weeks saw the severity of their symptoms reduced by nearly 50%.” The most common exercise believed to relieve depression is yoga, with jogging coming in at a close second. Both relieve stress and anxiety, providing you with a sense of well-being and happiness.
Regardless of what exercise you choose, try to engage in an activity that you enjoy and enlist help if you need! Keep track of your exercise goals and see how you feel after accomplishing them. Share your thoughts with your loved ones and give them permission to check in with you on a regular basis. This can be invaluable in the long run!