Psychologists, scientists and doctors are intrigued by the inverse relationship between exercise and depression. According to The Times newspaper, "neurologists have begun to show that exercise may alter brain chemistry in much the same way that antidepressant drugs do, by regulating the key neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine."
Despite lack of funding, as there are no huge profits in studying something that cannot be patented, studies have shown that aerobic exercise appears to be a simple treatment for relieving mild to moderate depression.
One such study at Duke University, NC on a group of clinically depressed patients divided them into three groups and treated them with exercise only, exercise plus antidepressant drug or antidepressant drug only. Initially those taking antidepressant drugs reported slightly better results but after 10 months, it was the patients on exercise-only that had the best mood and highest remission rate.
Health Benefits of Exercise and Depression
We already know that regular exercise provides a wealth of benefits, whether you choose walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, golf (on foot), tennis, aerobics, gardening, dancing or even yoga.
Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, lowers blood pressure, improves muscle tone, lowers body fat and strengthens bones. But while all that is going on, exercise is also triggering neurotransmitters to release endorphins from the brain, spine and other parts of the body.
The endorphins interact with brain receptors to promote a sense of happiness and positivity. The effect of endorphins is similar to analgesics or a morphine kick, reducing the perception of pain. Sometimes this is reported as a "runner's high" at the end of a vigorous workout or run. These natural chemicals also act as sedatives and reduce stress, yet unlike chemical drugs, they do not lead to addiction or dependence.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mood issues and depression, why not encourage them to take up a sport or exercise and depression may be eased. It can be all the more beneficial for them to participate with a partner or in a group class, as there is ongoing support to continue even when the going gets tough. It's a simple, easy and free remedy, with absolutely nothing to lose.