Can Exercise Cure Depression?

Can Exercise Cure Depression?

You'd be surprised how many people around you are clinically depressed. During my career I've trained many people who suffered from depression. My hunch is you probably know someone right now who is struggling with depression.

The Good News

Duke University conducted a study on the effects of drugs and exercise as treatment for people with major depression. They took a group of people with major depression and split them into three control groups. One group was given medication only. The second group took medication, and performed thirty minutes of brisk exercise three times a week. The third group did exercise only.

The results showed that exercising three times per week for thirty minutes was just as effective in relieving symptoms as taking medication. Next, the study found that after six months the "exercise only" group were less likely to have a relapse. Only 8 percent of patients in the exercise group had their depression return, while 38 percent of the drug-only group and 31 percent of the exercise-plus-drug group relapsed. Whoa, now those are impressive statistics in favour of exercise.

The Bad News

Unfortunately, the most often prescribed long-term treatment for clinical depression is drug therapy. There is no question that in some cases drug therapy is crucial, and absolutely required. However, I also know in many cases, it is not.

In my opinion, exercise is one massive step in eliminating depression.
In my experience, we need some additional steps.

4 Drug Free Steps that can Reduce or Eliminate Depression

  1. Remove yourself from stressful environment(s)

  2. Start exercising regularly

  3. Look inward and determine what is causing you to be out of balance

  4. Have the courage to make the life changes required

The body wants to be healthy, and when given a chance, it will perform miracles. The first thing you need to do is remove yourself from stressors (ie: away from work), so the body can begin to settle down and heal. This puts you back in a position of having some control over your daily life. If you've been depressed you know how little control you felt you had at times.

Next, when you begin to exercise, the body immediately releases, from its own perfect pharmacy, "feel-good drugs." So, the more you exercise, the better you feel. Exercise also makes you stronger. Since the body and mind are intimately linked, what happens to one affects the other. In other words, the stronger the body, the stronger the mind, and confidence levels go up. Exercise has also been proven to improve brain function. Those of you who have had depression know how scatter brained, and forgetful you can be at times.

With increased mental strength and clarity, you can now begin to look inward to determine what is causing your imbalance. Once you have done this, you can decide to make the life changes required.

Can it Really Work that Way?

I said earlier that I have worked with many clients that had clinical depression. I am very proud to report that through regular exercise, and the resulting courage to change, the majority of those clients got off their anti-depressant medication(s).

Caution: Sometimes people find that the source of their depression is being in a job or relationship that is out of integrity for them. It takes strength to change in these areas.

Remember, drugs can only mask the problem. Solving the problem requires a deep look inward, and the courage to change. In my opinion, anyone who chooses to reclaim their life, is a hero.

If you know someone with depression, encourage them to exercise. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

This article is in no way meant to be a prescription for treating depression. If you are considering treatment for depression or modifying your medications in any way, consult your physician.

©2008 Synergenix Fitness Astrid Whiting, author, columnist, Medical Exercise Specialist, CPT.