May Physical Exercises Ease Depression?

In many cases of depression, although they may seem like a torture, exercises may be the right treatment technique for recovery.  It is very common for people who used to be very active in their life to become couch addicted during their depression episodes.

Exercises' most dreadful enemy are the fatigue and low energy symptoms of depression and can create overwhelming feelings of worthlessness for those who watch their body changing proportions.

A depressed person's health and activity level are damaged by their condition. Although, the mood disorder and poor physical condition are not so tightly related as a Duke University Medical Center in Durham , N.C. study has shown. Exercising may ease depression just as well as medication.

Antidepressants or exercises

As it was shown in a late 1999 study, the exercises play an important role in relieving short – term depression and their effect can be compared to that of medication. Three groups of people were given different therapies for comparison. The first group practiced physical exercises, the second one was given medication therapy and the third group had a combined therapy of both medications and exercises. The results have shown that the exercises therapy was as effective as the other two groups' treatments.

The results were even better according to a follow – up study that continued monitoring the subjects for an additional 6 months. Even more, they showed that exercising therapy prevents the depression to relapse. The more an individual practices exercises, the less predisposed he is to re – experience depression episodes.

An interesting observation was that those who used combined treatments of medications and exercises did not do as well as those who only worked out. This effect was blamed by some researchers on the more active role that people had in exercise groups that gave them a proper motivation.

Although these results are very useful for those who suffer from depression, further research is required to establish the exact connection with the physical exercising and what kinds of depressions are best treated with this kind of treatment.

First Steps

Only by taking the first step, one can make progress possible.  Small, singularly focused steps are the key of success into starting an uneasy physical exercises therapy as Teri Jo Oetting, a community dietitian at the University of Missouri Health and Science Center is persuading her patients.

Keep things simple and focus on one area at the time. It will be a lot easier than seeing a whole objective.

People who suffer from depression would rather stay home than go out and mix with other people. They close the door to an endless number of possibilities of being happy. Oetting tells her patients to go out and if they refuse, go out at night. Still being alone but outside. Find the moon and take a few deep breaths. Oetting admits that some patients accuse her of silly methods but she achieves the goal of taking them beyond the door. Small steps well focused that increase in time and provide more happiness, well – being and a more sociable behavior that is the way to cure.

How do I get started — and stay motivated?

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine can be a challenge. Here are some steps that can help. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program to make sure it's safe for you.
  • Identify what you enjoy doing. Figure out what type of physical activities you're most likely to do, and think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening or go for a jog in the pre-dawn hours? Go for a bike ride or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.
  • Get your mental health provider's support. Talk to your doctor or other mental health provider for guidance and support. Discuss concerns about an exercise program and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.
  • Set reasonable goals. Your mission doesn't have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you may be able to do. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than trying to meet unrealistic guidelines that you're unlikely to meet.
  • Don't think of exercise as a chore. If exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.
  • Address your barriers. Figure out what's stopping you from exercising. If you feel self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise at home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with. If you don't have money to spend on exercise gear, do something that's virtually cost-free, such as walking. If you think about what's stopping you from exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.
  • Prepare for setbacks and obstacles. Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn't mean you can't maintain an exercise routine and may as well quit. Just try again the next day.
What Are the Psychological Benefits of Exercise With Depression?

Improved self-esteem is a key psychological benefit of regular physical activity. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins. These endorphins interact with the receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain.

Endorphins also trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine. For example, the feeling that follows a run or workout is often described as "euphoric." That feeling, known as a "runner's high," can be accompanied by a positive and energizing outlook on life.

Endorphins act as an analgesic, which means they diminish the perception of pain. They also act as sedatives. They are manufactured in your brain, spinal cord, and many other parts of your body and are released in response to brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. The neuron receptors endorphins bind to are the same ones that bind some pain medicines. However, unlike with morphine, the activation of these receptors by the body's endorphins does not lead to addiction or dependence.

Regular exercise has been proven to help:
  • Reduce stress and take your mind of worries.
  • Ward off anxiety and feelings of depression.
  • Boost self-esteem and gain confidence.
  • Improve sleep.
  • Release feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins).
  • Reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects.
Exercise also has these added health benefits:
  • It strengthens your heart.
  • It increases energy levels.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It improves muscle tone and strength.
  • It strengthens and builds bones.
  • It helps reduce body fat.
  • It makes you look fit and healthy.
Are Particular Types of Exercise That Are Better for Depression?

It appears that any form of exercise can help depression. Some examples of moderate exercise include:
  • Biking
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Golf (walking instead of using the cart)
  • Housework, especially sweeping, mopping, or vacuuming
  • Jogging at a moderate pace
  • Low-impact aerobics
  • Playing tennis
  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Yard work, especially mowing or raking
  • Yoga
Because strong social support is important for those with depression, joining a group exercise class may be beneficial. Or you can exercise with a close friend or your partner. In doing so, you will benefit from the physical activity and emotional comfort, knowing that others are supportive of you.

How long will it take to feel better?

People suffering from major depression have experienced a boost in emotional well-being and energy from as little as a single 30-minute workout, according to a small study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. But for the best results, the exercise program should last at least two months, according to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter.

Does the exercise have to be vigorous?

No, any kind will help. In a study published in 2005, researchers tested the effects of a three-month exercise program on people with mild to moderate depression. They divided 80 participants into five groups, with one of them exercising vigorously three days a week and another five days a week; two groups doing "low-dose" exercise three and five days a week, and another (the control group) doing only stretching.

Symptoms of depression dropped in all five groups, but they did take the biggest tumble in the rigorous exercise program, falling by an average of 47 percent. That means that the program of vigorous exercise was about as effective as antidepressant medication and cognitive therapy, the two main treatments for depression.

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