Aliza Septimus, PsyD
The Best Medicine is a Treadmill: How Daily Exercise Can Treat Depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 9% of American adults live with depression. It's also worth mentioning that a major depressive episode is the leading cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and 44.
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat people with moderate or severe depression. While these drugs do offer some relief, they can sometimes come with some side effects such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, and more. The obvious problem is these side effects can make someone who is depressed feel even worse. But there is good news!
Exercise Helps Beat Depression Naturally
Studies on exercise and depression are conclusive: Not only does exercise treat depression, it can also prevent it. In fact, researchers from Duke University found exercise to be as effective as medicine.
Why does it help? Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. It also releases endorphins, which are the body's own natural antidepressants. Exercise also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood.
The really good news is, it only takes moderate exercise three times a week to reap the antidepressant benefits. You don't have to train like an Olympic athlete or train for a marathon to feel better. Here are a few exercise ideas to get you started:
GO FOR A BIKE RIDE
Biking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors while getting a good workout at the same time. If the weather doesn't permit outdoor biking, a stationary bike is a good investment.
Swimming is one of the absolute best total body exercises. As a bonus, the steady movements through water also has a naturally calming effect.
WALK AT LUNCH
Grab a few friends or colleagues on your lunch break and go for a half hour walk. Not only will your body release endorphins but the socializing can be another benefit to your routine exercise.
Exercise doesn't have to be hard or complicated. Whatever form you like, commit to doing that at least three times a week and see if you start to feel better.