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New Evidence Reveals That Exercise Is A Powerful Treatment For Depression

Running is something that I find enjoyable. When I took the time to think about why I liked running, I came up with a list of reasons. Accomplishing a goal, the possibility for improvement, and realizing that you can do more than you thought possible. Running became somewhat of a healthful addiction.

It’s not news that running is healthy; many of the general health benefits from consistent exercise are clear to patients and doctors alike. But the benefits of recommending exercise to prevent or act as therapy for depression and anxiety hadn’t been thoroughly researched until recent years. Now, researchers are examining in detail the unique mental benefits of exercise.

Exercise largely ignored by psychiatrists for patient care

Last week was the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) Conference. Highlighted at the conference was research that determined that only around 20% of patients undergoing treatment for depression were given information on the benefits of exercise to manage depression.

Reasons given by psychiatrists for the lack of discussion surrounding exercise were:

  • Exercise may be a less effective treatment in comparison to face-to-face therapy, medication treatment, and social support.

  • More serious cases of depression called for more direct treatments.

  • The psychiatrists themselves did not personally practice regular exercise.

A powerful treatment for depression

New research is being shared with members of the psychiatry community on the effectiveness of exercise as a treatment for depression and anxiety. Overall positive changes in patient mood, reduced anxiety, and lower compulsive habits have been evidenced in the latest studies of exercise within the scope of psychiatric treatment.

Exercise is something patients can start immediately with significant results, especially for protecting against the onset of depression. We all have ups and downs due to fatigue, stress, or a combination of both, but why don’t we exercise to prevent those sinking moods and other additional chronic diseases?

Depression can be defined as a withdrawal from the regular activities of life. Keeping an active and enjoyable schedule – exercise included – helps maintain the regularity that’s sometimes lost with depression. A lack of interest in everyday activities is a symptom of depression that can be partly remedied by getting involved with a social group where physical activity, such as light jogging, works as a type of interpersonal therapy, not to mention the added physical benefits of exercise.

President of the ADAA, and medical director at Ross Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, Beth Salcedo, MD, recently expressed her successful treatment of a patient diagnosed with severe anxiety, depression, and failure of first-line medications.

She states that the patient, “…finally entered into a marathon training program, which provided her regular exercise and a new social support system, and her symptoms fully remitted. [The patient] felt great,”

Exercise – it’ll do you good

Something to consider the next time you are debating whether to exercise is this: Studies on exercise and depression show that non-exercising individuals are more likely to show depression. In comparison, those who exercised a total of an hour or more every week are 44% less likely to become depressed.

For those who think that the negative thoughts and apprehension they feel towards exercise will offset any health benefits, note that even light exercise such as walking, stretching, swimming, or other simple aerobics can drastically help with depression. The risk of cardiovascular disease is also reduced with simple physical activity, so the benefits of light exercise will also help to maintain a healthy heart, circulation, and overall mood. So remember: a small dose of exercise can make a lasting difference in health and happiness.


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