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Exercising to improve symptoms of depression

Published on October 21, 2014 at 14:41 / Updated on April 16, 2019 at 18:38

A small study published in the online journal of Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, suggests that being physically active may help improve symptoms of depression in individuals who do not respond to antidepressant medication.

Several studies previously demonstrated that physically active people are less susceptible of suffering from depression, than those who are sedentary. Clinical trials have also shown regular physical activity to be a beneficial part of the treatment for depression. In some cases, physical activity alone could be sufficient in treating the condition, without having to resort to antidepressants. A small study from the University of Cagliari, in Italy, actually demonstrates that regular physical exercise can have a positive impact on the treatment of patients with major depression whose symptoms do not respond to classical pharmacological treatments.

The Italian study followed 30 women between the ages of 40 and 60 who had been diagnosed with major depression but had failed to improve after at least two months of treatment with an antidepressant. The women were divided into two groups. Women from the first group were to continue their treatment with antidepressants, in addition to meeting for an hour twice a week to exercise as a group. Women from the second group were also asked to pursue their regular treatment with antidepressants, but without doing any exercise.

The study demonstrated a notable improvement in the symptoms of depression for the women who had done regular physical activity, in addition to their regular treatment with antidepressants. The symptoms of the women who had been assigned to the second group, who did not exercise, only showed minimal improvement. Researchers concluded that doing regular physical activity could act as a complementary treatment for depression.

Various theories have been put forth to explain the benefits of exercise in the treatment of depression. For example, it is believed that physical activity has a direct effect on brain molecules called neurotrophins, which play a role in symptoms of depression, and transmit signals to regions of the brain related to mood. It is also believed that exercising affects two key nervous system chemicals called norepinephrine and serotonin.

Additionally, people who participate in group activities could also benefit from interacting with other people and being more socially involved. Depressive individuals tend to isolate themselves from others, perpetuating feelings of sadness, inadequacy and dejection.

This is another really good argument to convince you to be physically active!

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