Can Exercise Cure Depression?
A few years ago, colleagues from Duke University compared the antidepressant effects of aerobic exercise training to the popular antidepressant medicine sertraline, as well as a placebo sugar pill. They randomized depressed patients to one of the interventions and found that after four months about 40 percent of the subjects were no longer depressed. Those who exercised or received the medicine had higher and comparable response rates, but they were only slightly better than the placebo group. Those who exercised at a moderate level – about 40 minutes three to five days each week – experienced the greatest antidepressant effect. So they interpreted that to mean that exercise was just as good as medicine. And in that particular study, the high placebo response meant that nonspecific influences like patient expectations and the attention from the study personnel during monitoring visits may have caused the therapeutic response.
Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant. It also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood. In fact, the antidepressant in the study, sertraline, is an SSRI or a selective serotinon reuptake inhibitor – it is thought to exert its effects on body chemistry by increasing the amount of brain serotonin, a chemical that is lowered during depressed mental states. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a chemical that promotes brain health and memory, is also reduced in depression, and exercise has been found to elevate levels of this neurotransmitter. Maybe a fitness program could boost my friend’s levels in all these areas, and help his forgetfulness, too. He could only laugh at the idea of having 40 extra minutes three times a week to exercise. His wife was mad enough that he worked 14 hour days as it was.
move a muscle = change a thought
If you wanna get on your feet, you’ve gotta get off your ass!