Fighting Depression Through Fitness and Exercise

Exercise is good for your health”. This statement has become a cliché, and like all clichés lost its original significance. Not to worry though, a little meaning is about to return, in the way it affects depression at least. This post explores the possible theories backing the concept of fighting depression through fitness.

Every now and then people might feel ‘down’ or ‘done with this mortal coil’, but when this feeling goes off the rails and interferes with the individual’s normal activity, it is then considered an illness.

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Understanding Depression

Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity. It is a mental disorder where a person suffers from low mood, apathy to activity, and negative thoughts, which in turn affects his feelings and actions.

It can be mild, moderate or severe; with the severe form usually leading to suicide.

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders. Globally more than a 264 million people of all ages suffer from depression. It is a leading cause of disability worldwide and is a major contributor to the overall burden of disease.

Women are more affected than men, with the middle-aged group being less affected than the elderly and the young ones.

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Why Women are more Affected.

Possible theories:

● Women (of child-bearing age) go through cyclical hormonal changes associated with menstruation every month, which tends to affect their mood as well.

● Menopause is associated with mood changes, depression mostly. Hormones, especially when levels change rapidly, can trigger depression. Women may experience this just before a period, after giving birth, or during menopause.[premiere ]

● Women seem to be more easily swayed by their emotions

● The middle-aged group are usually more active than the elderly.

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Risk factors for depression include:

  • Family history of depression. The risk of depression is increased in 1st-degree relatives of an affected person.
  • Stress: loss of a loved one in the event of death, break up, or divorce. A huge loss; money or job, frustration resulting from repeated failure at completing a task.
  • Medical conditions, especially chronic illnesses.
  • Alcohol abuse: alcohol has a depressing effect on the brain
  • Sedentary lifestyle: people that are less active are more likely to suffer from depression than their more active counterparts
  • Emotions hoarding: not having someone to talk or caging be of emotions.
  • Drugs: Some drugs alter brain chemicals and produce depression as a side effect. Eg: anticonvulsants

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Fighting Depression through fitness

I’m sure whenever you hear fitness what comes to mind is a picture of a muscular, good-looking, and healthy person. You are not wrong.

Though exercise is our main focus here, there are other components of fitness such as:

● Eating right, and

● Good sleep habits

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Did you know?

Exercise is as effective as antidepressant medications in the treatment of mild and moderate depression.

Exercise is any bodily activity done to achieve or maintain physical fitness, but I’m sure u knew that already.

Exercise helping manage depression isn’t just a baseless claim as there’s some science and data to support it.

So aren’t you going to ask the obvious question “HOW?”.

Here’s how

  • The Monoamine hypothesis

The monoamine hypothesis of depression predicts that the underlying pathophysiologic basis of depression is a depletion in the levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and/or dopamine in the central nervous system.

These neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) play important roles in mood regulation, and their levels have been found to be depleted in depression.

Exercise in addition to increasing blood and oxygen supply to the brain triggers the release of these neurotransmitters depleted in depression, causing an improvement in the individual’s mood.

It also triggers release of some neurotrophic factors that modulate healthy brain changes.

It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.

Finally, exercise can also serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.

Blumenthal and colleagues randomly assigned 156 moderately depressed men and women to an exercise, medication, or exercise and medication group… a psychiatrist evaluated medication efficacy, assessed side effects, and adjusted dosages accordingly at 2, 6, 10, 14, and 16 weeks.

Results showed that while medication worked more quickly to reduce symptoms of depression, there were no significant differences among treatment groups at 16 weeks. The percentage of patients in remission from their depression at 16 weeks did not differ among groups. Therefore, exercise was as effective as medication for reducing symptoms of depression in that sample.

This is the theory that supports fighting depression through fitness and exercise.

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Getting started with Fitness

Now you know how exercise affects depression, how are you going to utilize this information?

Starting an exercise routine is easier said than done. Being not so easy for non-depressed people, how about already depressed people?

As previously stated, depressed people have an aversion to activity but now they need to engage in this activity, in this case, exercise, to be able to combat their condition. Isn’t that a CATCH-22?

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Here are some tips on getting started with Fighting Depression Through Fitness:

● Have a routine: make time for exercising according to your schedule. Could be morning jogging or evening walk.

● Be consistent: it goes without saying that the routine should be adhered to. One should see his schedule as the doctor prescription

● Start small: you could start with 15minutes of exercise every day and gradually increase as your body adjusts. Failure to start small could result in over-exertion and discouragement.

● Have an exercise buddy: having someone to exercise with makes exercise more fun, and easy to cope with.

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Conclusion

Over $40 billion being spent each year on lost work productivity and medical treatment related to this illness5, but it could have cost only as little as a pair of sports shoes, a little breaking of sweat, a feeling of fulfillment, and other enormous health benefits of exercise.

So I ask, “When are you hitting the road?”

Author:

Ogbochie Emmanuel C. (Medical Student, Writer)

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Dr. Lee
Medical Student, Blogger, I.C.T Geek.

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