In the 1980's, researchers studying the role of exercise in treating cardiovascular disease noticed it also seemed to reduce symptoms of depression.
Now, almost forty years later, a growing amount of evidence suggests exercise may be an effective way to help alleviate the symptoms of depression and to protect against it.
In an experiment comparing different forms of treatment, regular exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, or medication, exercise worked just as well as the others. And, though more data is needed, study participants who exercised did experience lower rates of relapse.
Time For A Bike Ride
Some clinical psychologists argue exercise may be just as beneficial as medication for certain patients, especially those with mild to moderate depression. Exercise in these situations doesn't always mean going to the gym; it could be taking a brisk walk, yoga, or riding a bike. Moderate or vigorous aerobic activity is especially good.
This should not be taken as an argument that people experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety should only exercise to improve their health. Depression and anxiety are serious ailments. All treatment plans should be decided with a health care provider.
One thing scientists are theorizing as a result of these studies is that exercise can strengthen the brain's responses to stress. Just as a person should do conditioning before running a marathon, the brain may also need the benefits that come from working out to handle pressure.
Thank you to Brittany Brothers of Indiana University's Psychological and Brain Sciences for reviewing this episode.
Sources And Further Reading:
- Jabr, Ferris. "Why Exercise May Be The Best Fix For Depression." Scientific American. January 2017. Accessed July 19, 2017.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms." Mayo Clinic Online. October 10, 2014. Accessed July 19, 2017.