Exercise as an Antidepressant

Feeling down?  You know that exercise is good for your body, but did you know that exercise is also good for your head? How does exercise compare with medication for the treatment of depression? A placebo-controlled study conducted by James Blumenthal, professor of psychology at Duke University and published in an issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, compared exercise to a common antidepressant medication in a group of individuals diagnosed with major depressive disorder, and found that exercise was as effective as the drug at alleviating symptoms of the disorder. In fact, a research team that included psychologist Penny McCullagh, PhD, reached the following conclusions:

  • Exercise was a beneficial antidepressant both immediately and over the long term.
  • Exercise was an equally effective antidepressant for both genders.
  • The greater the length of the exercise program and the larger the total number of exercise sessions, the greater the decrease in depression with exercise.

How can exercise relieve depression? Experts have known that exercise stimulates endorphins, chemicals that circulate throughout the body. Endorphins improve natural immunity and reduce the perception of pain as well as may also serve to improve mood. Exercise also stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine which may directly improve mood as well. Besides lifting your mood, regular exercise offers other health benefits, such as lowering blood pressure, protecting against heart disease and cancer, and boosting self-esteem. Starting off with even ten minutes of movement can help improve your blood flow and affect your mood.

A few simple ways to get started:

  • Take a 10 minute walk around your house or block. 
  • Turn on your favorite music and dance around your house
  • House hold chores such as cleaning, gardening, and organizing can be great physical activity
  • Ask a friend to take a walk with you and catch up in person instead of on the phone
  • Ask for help!  Hire a coach or trainer to help keep you accountable and design a plan that works for you!

If you suffer from depression, please consult a mental health care provider to determine best course of treatment for you.

KnAb7-7-3 cropJJ Flizanes is an Empowerment Strategist. She is the Director of Invisible Fitness, an Amazon best-selling author of Fit 2 Love: How to Get Physically, Emotionally, and Spiritually Fit to Attract the Love of Your Life, and author of Knack Absolute Abs: Routines for a Fit and Firm Core, and was named Best Personal Trainer in Los Angeles for 2007 by Elite Traveler Magazine. JJ vividly reminds us that the word ‘fitness’ is not just about the state of one’s physical body, but also the factors which determine a person’s overall well being. And, for JJ, the key components in all these areas are ‘invisible’ — balanced support structures of nutrition, emotional centeredness and health. A video expert for About.com and regular contributor for The Daily Love, JJ has been featured in many national magazines such as Shape, Fitness, Muscle and Fitness HERS, Elegant Bride, and Women’s Health as well as appeared on NBC, CBS, Fox 11 and KTLA. For her clients & followers, JJ designs customized coaching programs and unique, versatile approaches that harmonize the emotional, the mental and the spiritual. Find out more at Invisiblefitness.com or Fit2love.info.

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