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Exercise Away Your Depression

Increased levels of physical activity significantly reduce depression, even among people who are genetically predisposed to the condition, according to Neuroscience News, which profiled a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital.

exercise

The research involved nearly 8,000 individuals and found that both high-intensity forms of activity, such as aerobic exercise, dance and exercise machines, and lower-intensity forms, including yoga and stretching, were linked to decreased odds of depression.

Exercise is a powerful tool for the prevention and management of depression, in part by normalizing insulin resistance.

Here’s how it works: By exercising you allow for more tryptophan to be transported into your brain, where physical activity raises your serotonin and inhibits conversion into kynurenine, thereby boosting mood and preventing depression.

While exercise euphoria is typically attributed to the release of endorphins, vigorous exercise also dramatically increases anandamide — an endocannabinoid — in the body, which influences opioid and endorphin receptors. The higher your anandamide level, the better you feel.

Exercise has long been viewed as an antidote to depression, but for those in the throes of a depressive episode or even a blue mood, it can be hard to summon the motivation to get moving. In that case, choose a physical activity that interests you — exercise is not limited to a gym — whether it be dance or yoga classes, bike riding, running or just plain old walking.

In another 11-year study, people who engaged in regular leisure-time exercise for only one hour a week were less likely to become depressed. Those who didn’t exercise were 44% more likely to become depressed compared to those who did so for at least one to two hours a week.

Resistance exercise training — commonly referred to as weight training or strength training — is another simple, accessible and side effect-free intervention that could help drive down rising rates of depression and improve quality of life. Strength training has also been shown to lead to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms.

In addition to improving your mood, strength training builds muscle mass and strength, and offers other health benefits from your heart to your brain.

The greatest improvements were seen among people with symptoms of mild to moderate depression, as opposed to those without depression, which suggests strength training may be most effective for people with greater depressive symptoms.

While strength training may not provide an all-out cure for depression, it may improve depressive symptoms just as well as antidepressants and behavioral therapies.

Exercise can make you a happier, more positive person, which can prompt changes in your body that strengthen your immune system, boost positive emotions, decrease pain and chronic disease and provide stress relief.

Avid exercisers often enjoy a euphoric feeling after their workouts. Sometimes called a "runner's high," this notable post-workout boost in happiness and energy levels is what keeps many devoted exercisers coming back for more.

Happiness, optimism, life satisfaction and other positive self-acceptance were found to be the strongest predictors of life satisfaction. Emotions are known to be contagious among people in direct contact with one another (this is true for friends, acquaintances and even strangers), so exercise can increase your happiness and positivity which you can pass on to those around you.