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Can You Exercise Depression Away?

We all know exercise improves physical health and lowers the risk of many illnesses such as diabetes and cancer. However, the benefits of exercise for mental health are not as obvious or well publicized. We already know that inactivity can cause depression but now evidence has been piling up that suggests exercise helps individuals with mild to moderate depression. Although no treatment for depression works for everyone, exercise has proven to be just as effective as medication and counselling in several studies.

How does exercise help with depression?

  1. Strengthens biochemical resilience to stress which makes the body better at dealing with all types of mental and physical stresses.

  2. Exercise seems to mimic some of the chemical effects of antidepressants.

  3. Increases self-esteem.

  4. May even counter balance an underlying genetic risk for mental illness.

  5. Group exercise also includes social interaction which helps alleviate depressive symptoms.

Depression symptoms can include losing interest in daily activities/hobbies (e.g. exercise) so here are a few tips to keep you motivated:

  1. 10 minutes of exercise is better than none.

  2. Set yourself realistic goals.

  3. If you aren’t exercising at all, start by taking the stairs or call a friend to schedule a walk a few times a week.

  4. Identify what motivates you (e.g. If you are competitive, join a recreational sports league).

Exercise is one of the strongest, safest, most practical, most affordable and even enjoyable treatments available with the lowest relapse rates. Even with the information available today, there is still more research needed to determine what type and duration of physical activity is ideal for depressed individuals. Health care professionals such as chiropractors are the best option and can help “prescribe” the right exercise regime for your needs. If you already have a treatment plan with your family doctor or mental health practitioner do not stop without discussing with them first.

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