Exercise Better Than Drugs For Depression
Besides its physical health benefits, exercise is often said to help people simply feel good. And a growing number of studies are showing that these mood-boosting effects may even fight clinical depression.
Researchers found that walking for 30 minutes each day quickly improved the patients’ symptoms–faster, in fact, than antidepressant drugs typically do.
The results indicate that, in selected patients with major depression, aerobic training can produce a substantial improvement in symptoms in a short time.
Previous studies have suggested that exercise is a potent mood-booster, and some research indicates that for some patients regular activity may be a better depression treatment than psychotherapy or medication. Exactly why is unclear, but exercise does influence certain mood-related hormones. And it is also believed to enhance people’s sense of control over their lives.
In one study that compared exercise with antidepressants among older adults, investigators found that physical activity was the more effective depression-fighter.
British Journal of Sports Medicine April 2001;35:114-117
DR. MERCOLA’S COMMENT:
Many of us forget that exercise can be used as a drug. It is one of the absolute best treatments for insomnia, weight control, and reducing insulin resistance. As we see here, it is also a wonderful aid in the treatment of depression.
When using exercise as a drug, it will be important to have as a goal at least one hour per day, every day. Obviously, depending on one’s current condition, one needs to work slowly up to this level. My experience is that weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, running, Nordic Track, Health Rider are better than cycling and swimming. If you have access to a health club, my favorite piece of equipment there is the elliptical machine.
Cycling and swimming take far longer to produce the same benefit and each have their own problems. If you are cycling outdoors you run the risk of being killed or injured by a motor vehicle. Swimming is usually done in chlorinated pools, which has its own problems. However, if you are able to swim in the ocean, the salt water provides an incredible synergism that far exceeds the value of the exercise.
The practical problem with using exercise in depression is that the desire to pursue any activity, let alone exercise, is not very high. The converse though also needs to be considered. Just because one exercises, that does not mean you cannot become depressed. Exercise makes it easier to treat depression, but it