Can Exercise Prevent Depression?

Ezfit Blog Can Exercise Prevent Depression

Can Exercise Prevent Depression?

If you ask any person if they had a workout, He or she would tell how much they felt better after it. From them you can easily know that mental health and exercise are interrelated. Most importantly, science backs up this statement. In addition, there are many studies that simply displays the advantage of physical activities. They are often linked to reducing the risk of having depression and getting good outcome from people.

The only doubt you might have is whether exercise can prevent any kind of depression? Whether the people who don’t suffer from depression can become more active?

Now there is no doubt that doing regular physical exercise is one of the best ways to avoid all kinds of mild depression. There are multiple views on exercising assisting people with depression, but there isn’t a precise reason or clear knowledge about it. Also, it is even not known what or which exercise or how much is good for you. Whether the benefit gets lost when exercising is stopped is another question.

To put in simple terms, by being active, it can –

  • assist in improving one’s sleep patterns
  • assist in lifting the mood by improving fitness
  • Increasing energy levels
  • assist in blocking all kinds of negative thoughts or distractions that people worry about
  • assist people in feeling less alone if they can exercise with others.

In addition, exercise will modify the levels of chemicals present in the brain like endorphins, serotonin and even stress hormones.

Explaining Depression

We feel moody, sad, and even low from time to time. But some individuals experience such feeling in an intense manner, maybe for a longer period (like weeks, months and years). They might feel it without any reason. Here depression is simply more than just having a low mood. It is nothing but a serious condition having impact on both mental and physical health.

Studies show that one in six women or one in eight men can suffer from depression at any point in their lives. Now the exact cause of the depression might not be known, still there are variety of things which is associated with its development. Most of the time, depression won’t result from any single cause, still it is caused from the combination of biological factors like serious medical illness, family history, etc; personality factors; early childhood experience; recent stress in life; and various other personal factors.

Effects of Exercising On Depression

Various studies show that exercising will begin a biological cascade of events. This will bring in about a whole new level of health benefits like improving sleep, protecting against heart disease, reducing blood pressure, etc. Frankly, high intensity exercise will release feel-good chemicals of the body which is called endorphins. This will result in “runner’s high” which joggers report.

Now for most people, the real value simply lies in doing low-intensity exercise regime over a period. Such kind of activity will lead to the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors. This will allow the nerves to grow and make some new connections. Furthermore, the improvements in the brain function will even make you feel better.

In individuals who are depressed, neuroscientist found out that the hippocampus present in the brain, which is the region that helps to regulate the mood is small. Here exercise will allow the nerves to grow in the hippocampus, thereby improving the nerve cell connections. This will reduce depression.

Challenge – How to Get Started

Do you know depression gets manifested physically? It is caused by reduced energy, disturbed sleep, change in appetite, body pain, and increase pain perception. All of this can lead to less motivation to do any exercise. Most doctors feel that this is a hard cycle to break. However, getting up and moving a little can be great. All people need to do is start with a five minute a day walking or any activity that they really enjoy. After that the five-minute activity will become ten and then the ten will become fifteen.

Relationship Between Anxiety Disorder and Exercising

Anxiety and stress are a normal part of life. However, the anxiety disorder can affect about 40 million adults and is the most common kind of psychiatric illness present in the US. Most importantly, the benefit of exercising can even extend to stress relief and even improving anxiety and other related disorders.

Various doctors and physicians feel that one can easily relieve depression and anxiety by doing a ten-minute walk. Some even implement on doing a 45-minute workout too. There are various studies which even showcase the effect of exercising on elevating depression in many people.

Of course, sometimes the effects can be temporary but a brisk walk or another normal activity can provide a great amount of relief which is simply equal to having an aspirin for a headache. Science shows certain evidence that clearly state that physically active individual will have less amount of anxiety and depression when compared to sedentary individuals. Even exercising can easily improve one’s mental health by allowing the brain to cope in a better manner.

There are even studies which show that individuals who do regular and vigorous exercises have more than 30% chance of developing depression or any kind of anxiety disorder over the couple of years.

Exercising as Major Therapy For Your Body

As per certain studies, doing regular exercise is like medication. In some people it has helped in reducing the symptoms of depression as well as anxiety. Most importantly, the effects can be long lasting. Sometimes, vigorous exercising session will alleviate all kinds of symptoms related to diseases for hours. Regular schedule will reduce them over time.

Even though exercise indeed has some amount of positive effects on various individuals, but there are recent studies that is showing for some it is not. Certain people won’t have any kind of positive effect if they are suffering from depression and anxiety due to exercising. It is same fin terms of long-term mental health.

Like most of the kinds of therapy, the effects can simply vary. For some individuals it can be responded in a positive manner, while for others it may not improve their mood a lot. In addition, some might experience a short-term benefit. Most importantly, various studies show that there are quite many beneficial benefits of exercising on physical health. It is important that people always remain active.

How Your Brain Responds on Exercising

Various reports show that depression can shut down the ability of the brain to adapt to new kind of situations. This is by limiting the ability of the chemicals of the brain which is called as neurotransmitters (like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) which will foster the ability to communicate through the brain.

Researchers even state that the depressed brain will lock into the negative loop of the self-hate. Even it will end up losing the flexibility to work its way right out of the hole. By exercising, you are countering the activity of the brain by boosting the production of the proteine BDNF (brain-developed neurotrophic factor). This is a simple protein that assists neurotransmitters to do their basic function. This will assist depressed people to come out of their rut.

There are various methods of reducing depression. Most doctors suggest that patients need to follow basic guidelines that is related to public health. As per this, one must do at least 30-40 minutes of moderate and intense exercises for five days in a week. But like stated above, it is not possible for all individuals to experience the effects of antidepressant of exercising. In some cases, it is less than 60% who can see a good amount of reduction in symptoms.

Break Sweat in Getting Rid Of Depression

Following are the seven basic exercises you can do to remove the symptoms of depression –

1) Get on The Runner’s High

When it is related to workouts which can fight depression, you can simply trust on cardio and aerobic exercise. They have a great edge. Most doctors feel that till date, the best and greatest evidence that assisting in fighting depression is aerobic exercises. Even though there is an extensive debate on what is the correct dosage of exercising for fighting depression, still there are certain ideas for it.

Some experts feel that one needs to do 30 to 40 minutes in a day per week. There are certain studies that have shown no association among the intensity level of exercising and the emotional benefits it has. But this is something that can be a great start.

Most people have not heard of runner’s high. This is the best example of exercising that can stimulate certain chemicals of the brain, which is called as runner’s high. Frankly, this is something that most athletes suffer or report experiencing of, when they cross a threshold of exertion when they run. Here the entire euphoria is nothing but to release the required amount of endorphins of the brain which can response to the required physical activity.

Of course, endorphins are the natural morphine of our body. Hence, when they are released by the special gland present in our brain, they will simply produce the sense of well-being or happiness. This will reduce the pain levels.

2) Developing Required Muscles

Nothing can boost your strength if it can boost your happiness. Various studies show that most of the stroke survivors suffering from depression went through a ten-week strength training program. This simply helped them to lower the symptoms related to depression (which was among the other benefits).

Doctors state that strength training is all about control as well as mastery. For doing it, one needs full amount of attention as well as concentration. More importantly, individuals can see the required results, which even includes the outline of the muscles forming. All this is through the dedication and training. However, one really must start slowly and get the assistance of a good personal trainer.

3) Yogi Aspect

Do you know that yoga was easily able to remove depression and anxiety among women? A study conducted clearly showed that amount 60 women it was able to remove the depression of more than 32 women. These women took yoga session twice a week for two months. It helped in reducing depression as well as anxiety.

Not many people know that eastern traditions like yoga are a great antidepressant and have a great effect. Not only it improves flexibility but involves a whole lot of mindfulness, which simply breaks the repetitive negative thoughts, and even increases the strength. Also, it makes you aware of your breathing, improving balance and has good amount of meditative component. With yoga session, you can be in the right body movements and even pose in a proper manner.

4) Going for Tai Chi

Like yoga, this is a slow, gentle movement. Tai Chi is just another Eastern tradition which might easily help you to get free from depression or any other depressive disorders. A study was conducted on certain Chinese patients having depression. Those individuals took Tai Chi for a period of three to four months, and they showed good amount of improvements too in fighting the symptoms of depression. As per various researchers, it was shown that the social aspect of Tai Chi which is done in a regular setting can easily play a great role in making it effective.

So, Exercising Can Prevent Depression?

Yes! One thing that you might have to think is that exercising is something that recharges your body as well as mind. Doing a physical activity will indeed make you active and recharge your brain cells. This can ultimately pump up your mood hormones present in the brain. Hence, there is no doubt that exercising can be a great way to get rid of depression.

So, if you are the one who has depression or anyone one of your friends is going through anxiety, better put on the exercising shoes. Exercising will simply throw away depression and make you fit physically as well as mentally.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.