Should Exercise Be What the Doctor Orders for Depression?

If you’re feeling down in the dumps and looking for a quick and easy way to lift your spirits, getting more physically active may be the best solution, according to researchers at Michigan State University. In a study of 295 patients at a mental health clinic, 85 percent said they wanted to exercise more, yet over half said their mood limited their ability to exercise, according to MSU Today. The answer to that problem, researchers said, may be to offer activity programs inside mental health clinics, and for doctors to discuss physical activity with patients and support them in their efforts to exercise.

The good news is that previous studies show that 12 percent of depression could be prevented with as little as one hour of exercise a week. But like the referenced news article infers, sometimes it’s difficult to even get that one hour in if you’re already in a depressive episode. That’s why outside support from your physician, friend or coach is an important factor in getting yourself going.

If you need further motivation and you don’t want to resort to drugs, statistics alone show that physical exercise is at least as good as antidepressants in part because it increases serotonin in your brain and in part because it increases brain cells in your hippocampus, which are sometimes reduced in people with depression. If you're looking for a quick way to boost your mood, doing a short, high-intensity workout will likely do the trick.

If you're currently sedentary, you can start by simply sitting less but, ultimately, I recommend aiming for at least 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day and limiting sitting to less than three hours. That being said, if you want to give your mood a boost right now, try the nitric oxide (NO) dump exercise developed by Dr. Zach Bush. In addition to stimulating your brain, this simple exercise will help you maintain homeostasis in your body, and it takes only about three minutes.
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