We all get depressed from time to time. It’s just human nature. Stress is normal as well; in fact, stress can be good, because it is necessary in order to keep you motivated, alert, and prepared for danger. It’s no secret that stress and depression are linked. Likewise, the mind and body are linked – if one is affected by something, the other will often be as well. Stay stressed too long and you can develop a condition known as distress, which disturbs the internal equilibrium of your body. Your mental problems will start to manifest themselves physically. In other words, all that crap that’s bothering you is damaging your body. You could develop any of the following conditions:
- Depression, Anxiety, and Panic Attacks
- Upset Stomach
- Chest Pain
- High Blood Pressure
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Sleeping Problems
- Emotional Problems
- Worsened or increased chances of heart disease, lung problems, cancer, cirrhosis of the liver, accidents, suicide, and more (Chakraburtty)
Luckily, this mind-body link works both ways. According to a publication at Harvard University’s website, “A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression.”
Backed by Science
A great deal of other studies have been conducted:
Another study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 1999, divided 156 men and women with depression into three groups. One group took part in an aerobic exercise program, another took the SSRI sertraline (Zoloft), and a third did both. At the 16-week mark, depression had eased in all three groups. About 60%–70% of the people in all three groups could no longer be classed as having major depression. In fact, group scores on two rating scales of depression were essentially the same. This suggests that for those who need or wish to avoid drugs, exercise might be an acceptable substitute for antidepressants …
A follow-up to that study found that exercise’s effects lasted longer than those of antidepressants. Researchers checked in with 133 of the original patients six months after the first study ended. They found that the people who exercised regularly after completing the study, regardless of which treatment they were on originally, were less likely to relapse into depression …
A study published in 2005 found that walking fast for about 35 minutes a day five times a week or 60 minutes a day three times a week had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms (“Exercise and Depression”).
Harvard is not the only insitution that has found exercise to be effective at battling depression. The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, for example, came to the same conclusion:
Individuals who participated in moderately intense aerobics, such as exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle – whether it was for three or five days per week – experienced a decline in depressive symptoms by an average of 47 percent after 12 weeks. Those in the low-intensity exercise groups showed a 30 percent reduction in symptoms, while those in the last group averaged a 29 percent decline.
“Numerous effective treatments for depression are available, yet many people don’t seek treatment because of the negative social stigma still associated with the disease,” Dr. Trivedi said. “Exercise may offer a viable treatment alternative, particularly as it can be recommended for most individuals.”
Experts estimate that only 23 percent of individuals with clinical depression seek treatment for the mental illness and only 10 percent receive adequate treatment. Almost 19 million Americans are thought to suffer from depressive disorders (“Exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression, UT Southwestern researchers find”).
The Numerous Benefits of Exercise
Thus, exercise won’t just make you look better – it will make you feel better: more alert, less stressed, more confident, and generally happier.
- Exercise releases powerful endorphins that act as all-natural mood-enhancing drugs that improve natural immunity and reduce pain perception
- Exercise is believed to stimulate the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which directly improves your mood as well
- Exercise takes your mind off your problems by giving you something immediate to focus on
- Following a regular exercise routine makes you feel like you are helping yourself – you feel productive after every workout
- Exercise improves your self-esteem and confidence by making you look and feel better, as well as more capable to take on other tasks in life
So, it’s simple. Next time you’re feeling stressed out and sorry for yourself, instead popping pills, go pound some weights. Or go running. Just get moving!
Chakraburtty, Amal, MD. “How Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Affect Your
Health.” WebMD, LLC. 1 March 2010. 28 March 2010 <http://www.webmd.com/depression/stress-anxiety-depression>.
“Exercise and Depression.” Harvard University. 28 March 2010 <http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/
“Exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression, UT Southwestern
researchers find.” The University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center at Dallas. 25 Jan. 2010. 28 March 2010 <http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/utsw/cda/dept37389/files/