Exercise May Help with Depression

Experts have believed that exercise can help with depression for years, but now there is scientific evidence to support these beliefs.  In fact, research has found that exercise works as well to help with the symptoms of depression as psychotherapy and pharmacological treatments.  This is very important since 20-59% of people discontinue antidepressants within 3 weeks of receiving their prescription.

The following are several reasons why exercise can help improve mood:

  • People who exercise often receive positive reinforcement from family/friends which can improve their feelings of self worth
  • Learning to master a new skill can create a “positive diversion from negative thoughts”
  • Exercising with other provides “social contact” which improves mood
  • Exercise releases endorphins which are hormones that alter brain chemistry and can improve well being

So how much exercise is needed to improve mood?  It has been found that even “moderate amounts of physical activity provide powerful benefits.”  However it is important to be patient.  While you may experience some benefits in the beginning, research has found that after nine weeks of participation in physical activity benefits have been shown to increase.  Other research has found that benefits improve with “increasing frequency, intensity and duration.”

Some key points when choosing exercise to help boost mood:

  1. Choose activities you enjoy.
  2. Find a workout buddy or join a group class for social support
  3. Try a variety of activities to keep things interesting
  4. Reward yourself for accomplishing workout goals
  5. Try to exercise outside on sunny days…after all, sunshine can boost mood too
  6. Have fun!

The following article was used as the source for this post:
Muth ND.  Clients and depression: How Exercise Can Help.  American Council on Exercise Certified News.  2008; 14: 3-5.