Can exercise alleviate depression?


Commander's of Penmai
Apr 4, 2011
Depression is a very common problem — affecting about one in six people at some point in their life. Depression can describe a range of moods and behaviors — from low spirits to a severe problem that interferes with everyday life. People who are depressed often lose their appetite and have difficulty sleeping, feel guilty or worthless, become anxious and tired, and find it difficult to concentrate. Some may also have thoughts about death or suicide.

Sometimes it can be difficult to decide whether you are responding normally to difficult times, or have become depressed. A rough guide in this situation is that if your symptoms significantly interfere with your life and last for two weeks or more, then you may be experiencing depression and should seek help.
[h=3]Can depression be treated through exercise?[/h] There are several different treatments for depression. The most common treatments include prescribed antidepressant medication and certain forms of counselling, which can help people explore different ways of thinking about and coping with their problems.
Another treatment option is physical exercise. Several scientific studies have shown that a regular program of exercise can help people to recover from depression; lifting their mood, reducing anxiety and improving self-esteem and concentration. They also found that taking regular exercise could help protect people against becoming depressed in the first place.
[h=3]Why does exercise work to aid depression?[/h] There’s a range of reasons why exercise can help with depression:

  • Exercise is believed to increase the release of the brain chemicals that affect our mood and make us feel happier.

  • Exercise helps us to get active and meet new people. This stops us from feeling isolated and unsupported.

  • Exercise can give us new goals and a sense of purpose. We have something positive to focus on and aim for.

  • Exercise can boost our self-esteem — it can improve the way we look and how we feel about ourselves.
[h=3]Will exercise work for me?[/h] Exercise is one of the most popular treatments for depression when people actually try it — one survey found that 85 per cent of people with mental health problems who had tried exercise found it helpful. Often people say that, unlike antidepressants, exercise feels like a very ‘natural’ way to respond to feeling down — it gives them a sense of achievement and control, which can help counter the feelings of hopelessness.

Also, exercise doesn't produce the unpleasant side effects often associated with antidepressants — in fact, it has positive ‘side effects’, including lower risk of heart disease, strokes, some cancers and obesity. And once the exercise habit is learned, it can become a part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

If you are feeling the symptoms of depression the best advice is to go and discuss your feelings with your doctor. More and more doctors are harnessing the power of physical exercise to alleviate depression, and many now ‘prescribe’ exercise for patients — from simply advising patients to get more active or sometimes referring them to schemes where they will be helped to develop their own personal exercise program with the supervision of a qualified trainer.

If you are looking for ways to get active or want to get involved with a new sport or pastime and you have had the okay from your doctor, then look no further: has thousands of pages offering advice, ideas and tips on how to incorporate exercise and physical activity into your lifestyle.
This information was provided by The Mental Health Foundation.

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