You know that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that exercise is also good for your head? How does exercise compare with medication for the treatment of depression? A placebo-controlled study conducted by James Blumenthal, professor of psychology at Duke University and published in an issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, compared exercise to a common antidepressant medication in a group of individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and found that exercise was as effective as the drug at alleviating symptoms of the disorder. In fact, a research team that included psychologist Penny McCullagh, PhD, reached the following conclusions:
- Exercise was a beneficial antidepressant both immediately and over the long term.
- Exercise was an equally effective antidepressant for both genders.
- The greater the length of the exercise program and the larger the total number of exercise sessions, the greater the decrease in depression with exercise.
I know it’s considered easy in our society to take a pill. Everyone wants the magic pill for everything. But pause for a minute and think about where this mentality has gotten us? What has this type of mentality COST us? I think we can see evidence of it in our health, wealth and happiness. Here are some shocking facts for our current health status by the CDC (Center for Disease Control):
- More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
- Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
- The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
- It is projected that by 2023 there will be a 42% increase in cases of the seven chronic diseases, which will cost $4.2 trillion in treatment and lost economic output (DeVol et. Al. 2007)
The point I am making here though is that the way in which we have done things before are proving to us to be ineffective, costly and even deadly. It’s time for change. Chemically, we stimulate our brains and our bodies to produce our own natural “happy drug” when we exercise- so if you are feeling low… spend at least 10 min doing something to elevate your heart rate and circulate some happiness!
How can exercise relieve depression? Experts have known that exercise stimulates endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain as well as may also serve to improve mood. Exercise also stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which may directly improve mood as well. Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. Starting off with even ten minutes of movement can help improve your blood flow and affect your mood.
A few simple ways to get started:
- Take a 10 minute walk around your house or block.
- Turn on your favorite music and dance around your house
- House hold chores such as cleaning, gardening, and organizing can be great physical activity
- Ask a friend to take a walk with you and catch up in person instead of on the phone
- Ask for help! Hire a coach or trainer to help keep you accountable and design a plan that works for you!