For good health and prevention of disease exercise is a habit that can cure a variety of physical ills. Now, there is growing evidence that exercise can also help people who suffer from depression. Just getting up and moving around seems to have a positive impact on mental health as well as physical health.
People who are depressed often report feeling a lack of enthusiasm for activities that would ordinarily make them feel happy. Studies have shown that even a small amount of moderate exercise can increase your feelings of well being and alleviate feelings of depression. Other symptoms of depression often include lack of appetite and disrupted sleep. Exercise can be of great benefit in alleviating both of those symptoms because even moderate amounts of aerobic activity has been shown to help you sleep better and, since you’re burning calories, your appetite improves, too.
In a 2000 study performed at Duke University Medical Center, 156 people with major depressive disorder (MDD) volunteered to participate in an experiment to test the effect of exercise on depression. After four months, all of the patients reported significant reductions in their depressive symptoms. Also, the results were the same regardless of what kind of exercise they did. Researchers demonstrated in this study that there is an inverse relation between exercise and depression. In plain English, that means that as exercise goes up feelings of depression go down.
Medication is one common way of treating depression. Taken together with consultation with a mental health professional, medication can be a big help in treating depression. There are some drawbacks in taking medication though. Side effects can include nausea, diarrhea and insomnia. The researchers in the Duke study found that the volunteers who increased their exercise had 22% fewer feelings of depression than a control group who took Zoloft and didn’t exercise. If you can treat your depression with exercise and get better results without the unpleasant side effects of medication, that’s a compelling argument for daily exercise.
There are so many benefits of regular exercise. Reductions in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis and stress are just a few. Now, we also know that feelings of depression can be significantly helped by getting up and getting moving. Try adding some exercise to your daily routine and you’ll be healthier both physically and mentally.
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