Feeling Anxious or Depressed? Prescribe Exercise!
By Jennifer L. Conway | September 2006
Symptoms of Depression
Source: National Institute of Mental Health Not everyone experiences depression in the same way. If you or someone you know has three to five of the following symptoms, seek help from a health care At age 31, I can remember crying endlessly and wanting to do nothing else. I had just ended a long-term relationship with the love of my life, or so I thought. My older and wiser cousin, Sheila, advised me that exercise was the cure I needed to lift my mood. Turns out my cousin Research supporting the use of exercise in the mounting. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any given one-year period, about ten percent of the adult U.S. population suffers from clinical depression. The good news treatment. Sadly, about two-thirds of those suffering from depression never get the help Currently, the most popular treatments for depression are medication and psychotherapy. Sales for Prozac and other antidepressants Psychotherapy can be costly too and often only 10-20 visits will be covered under insurance, which may not be enough for patients to get their lives back on track. Exercise is a low-cost alternative with a myriad of health benefits including an enhanced sense of well-being and a decreased risk for various cancers and heart Can exercise really alleviate the symptoms of depression and anxiety? According to James Annesi Ph.D and Director of Wellness Advancement at the YMCA, the research is promising. In a study of adults based in metro Atlanta, the YMCA research program has tested differing amounts and types of physical activity for their effects on mental health. The results show that significant reductions in depressed moods were associated with a 10-week program of moderate cardiovascular exercise. “The reason why physical activity reduces anxiety and depression is not known. It’s difficult to know exactly what biochemical changes occur with exercise that are associated with changes in mood. I am of the belief that mastery (of sport/exercise), self-competence, and self-efficacy may be a large portion of the reason why exercise helps,” said Annesi. In other words, when we feel we are good at something and doing something good for ourselves, our mood is heightened. Annesi hopes to see more practitioners have the general knowledge that exercise can be an effective tool in fighting depression. Drugs and psychotherapy are useful, but clearly they are not the only answer. According to the American Psychological Association, “Exercise is a beneficial antidepressant both immediately and over the long term.” Especially for those who do not tolerate medications or cannot afford them, exercise can be an effective alternative treatment. The question of how to inspire someone to exercise when they may not want to get out of bed is an important one. The first step in dealing with depression is to have a proper medical examination and rule out any physical illnesses that may be contributing to symptoms. I don’t know if I was clinically depressed more than a decade (or so) ago. I did not see a doctor for a medical evaluation of my condition. I do know that heading to the trails with my running shoes made me feel better then and Depression is a pervasive and impairing illness that affects both women and men, but women experience depression at roughly twice the rate of men.2 There are different types of depression and a variety of causes including genetics. Next time you are feeling anxious or even depressed, grab a ball, a bike, or your running shoes and prescribe some exercise. 1 Blehar MC,Oren DA Gender differences in depression. Medscape Women’s Health, 1997; 2:3 Revised from: Women’s increased vulnerability to mood disorders: Integrating psychobiology and epidemiology, Depression, 1995; 3:3-12. 2 Robins LN and Regier DA (Eds). Psychiatric Disorders in America, the Epidemiolic Catchment Area Study. New York: The Free Press, 1990


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