Mental Health Issues – Depression and Exercise

by | Nov 14, 2011

For those with mental health issues, there is promising news. Many studies have shown that exercise lowers depression. Using exercise as a way to beat the blues is a much safer alternative than taking psychotropic drugs with their abundance of dangerous side effects. So when mental health issues affect a loved one, motivating them to exercise can have long lasting benefits and help move them from a depressed state.

In 1999 a study involving 156 men and women with mental health issues (depression) had some surprising results. This group was divided into thirds. One group took Zoloft, the second group took part in a regular aerobic exercise program, and the third group combined exercise with Zoloft.
After three months, up to 70% of the men and women from all three groups were no longer classified as having major depression.  Results from his study indicate that the treatment of mental health issues does not have to involve dangerous antidepressants and that there is an alternative to the expense and potential deadly effect of these drugs.
The news gets even better! When a follow up study was done, it was found that exercise had positive results that extended into the person’s long-term health whereas antidepressants are labeled by the FDA with warnings as severe as suicideal ideation. Those that exercised regularly were not apt to have a relapse of depression.
How much exercise is the most effective when it comes to elevating mood? A study from 2005 discovered that fast walking five times a week for 35 minutes a day had a strong and beneficial effect on both mild and moderately depressed people. They based this on someone weighing 150 pounds. For lighter people, less exercise would have the same effect, while heavier individuals would need to increase their daily exercise.
Why does exercise have this effect? It has been known for many years that endorphins, a bodily chemical with a beneficial effect on mood, increases with exercise. It has been found that exercising as a team can produce even more endorphins. Some have postulated that this is related to the social benefits that accompany working with others, as in team sports.
Some runners describe a “runner’s high” which helps with a positive outlook on life. Other mental health issues alleviated by exercise are:
·        Reduction of stress
·        Warding off anxiety
·        Boosting self-esteem
·        Improving sleep
Some studies indicate that any type of mild exercise can help depression. A few suggestions include:
·        Dancing
·        Riding a bike
·        Jogging
·        Swimming
·        Aerobics
·        Yard work
·        Even housework, especially vacuuming, mopping and sweeping
Since exercise can alleviate mental health issues in such powerful and natural ways, hopefully the use of antidepressants will one day disappear. Perhaps Psychiatry’s penchant for drugging depressed people will be viewed as a backward and barbaric practice, analogous to medieval bloodletting, and not to be tolerated in the 21st century.

1 Comment

  1. John

    This article has some great points. I would include good nutrition as the body has to be built back. If drugs are administered, this is an even more important point. Bodies need fuel to run or work and take care of deficiencies caused by drugs burning up nutrients. Otherwise a person could feel bad and the depression could continue.


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