You know exercise is good for your physical health, but did you know how effective it can be at actually improving your mental well-being and reducing depression? Each year Americans spend $10 billion on medications to treat depression, which, while they may alleviate feelings of worry and sadness, come with many common side effects such as sleep disturbances, nausea, tremors and weight gain.
But there may be another way. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) looked at depression in people with heart failure. It found that regular exercise improved symptoms of depression in the study participants, backing up findings from a previous 1999 JAMA study of exercise and people who suffer from a major depressive disorder.
James Blumenthal, a psychology professor at Duke University Medical Center, was involved with both research studies and found in the 1999 trial that aerobic exercise could work as well as front-line antidepressant drugs when it came to alleviating depressive symptoms. Researchers caution that the mood-lifting gains were modest, but they were maintained for an entire year, which was viewed as a positive sign. What’s more, the amount and quality of the exercise could be as little as three, 30-minute sessions a week.
Some of the reasons why exercise can benefit your emotional well-being have to do with the chemicals it releases in your body. Neurotransmitters and endorphins are released with exercise and can help ease feelings of depression. Exercise can also reduce the immune system chemicals that can worsen depression, as well as increase a person’s body temperature, which also has been shown to have a calming effect.
While most people instantly equate exercise with hitting the gym or running laps, even modest activities such as gardening, taking a walk or even washing your car can provide enough movement to improve your mood, when done consistently. In addition to exercise, research has shown that massage therapy can also help battle depression. Check out this great Massage Today article to learn more about it.
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