Can Exercise Help Depression?

by | Sep 29

Have you ever experienced seasonal depression?  

If so, you’re not alone. 

About 10 to 20 percent of American adults experience a milder version of seasonal depression called the “winter blues.” The days are shorter and there’s less sunlight, leaving us unhappy and unenergized. 

Beyond the winter blues is depression. People experience hopelessness, lack energy, disengage from family and friends, and are more sedentary.  

As cases of Covid-19 soared in 2020, so did cases of depression.   

A recent study showed that depression rates continued to rise in 2021, and even worsened, rising to 32.8 percent. (1)

The Best Way to Combat Depression

While taking antidepressants and seeking therapy are effective in managing the condition, did you know exercise can also help? 

A recent Harvard study revealed that exercise is as effective as antidepressants in treating depression. (2) 

You may have heard about the “runner’s high.” This is a euphoric feeling someone gets after running that leaves them happier and energized. This happens because hormones called endorphins are released from exercising. 

You don’t have to be a runner to experience these feel-good endorphins.  

Incorporating low-intensity exercise into your lifestyle can have the same effect because it improves brain health and targets nerves that help relieve the effects of depression.  

What is the best exercise program to help?  

Walking is a great low-impact and low-intensity workout.  

Ask a friend or your spouse to join to make it more fun. Even during winter months, try to bundle up and walk outside.  

Following a simple but effective walking program will leave you feeling happier and more energized. 

Start out by walking for ten minutes, five days a week. Tack on five minutes each day until you reach 30 minutes, five days a week.  If you have a tracker, strive for 10,000 steps each day for increased physical and mental health benefits.  

A recent study showed that walking 90 minutes per week has health benefits for depression. (3) It can lower the risk of depression by 18% compared to not exercising.  

The bottom line? 

Any exercise is better than no exercise for helping to combat depression! 

(1) https://www.bu.edu/sph/news/articles/2021/depression-rates-tripled-and-symptoms-intensified-during-first-year-of-covid/

(2) https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression

(3) Pearce M, Garcia L, Abbas A, et al. Association Between Physical Activity and Risk of Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. 2022;79(6):550–559. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2022.0609 

 

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