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Lindsay

Workouts Can Lighten Heavy Hearts

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Workouts Can Lighten Heavy Hearts

Exercise may equal medication in easing depression, experts say.

workout.jpg

By E.J. Mundell

HealthDay Reporter

SUNDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- The millions of Americans stricken each year by debilitating depression may want to consider running away from their problem -- or walking, swimming or dancing it away.

"What the studies are showing is that exercise, at least when performed in a group setting, seems to be at least as effective as standard antidepressant medications in reducing symptoms in patients with major depression," said researcher James Blumenthal, a professor of medical psychology at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

According to Blumenthal, other studies are beginning to suggest that solitary exercise, such as workouts at the gym or a daily jog, can be just as effective as group activities in beating the blues, and that "duration of exercise didn't seem to matter -- what seemed to matter most was whether people were exercising or not."

Blumenthal was lead author on a much-publicized study released five years ago that found that just 10 months of regular, moderate exercise outperformed a leading antidepressant (Zoloft) in easing symptoms in young adults diagnosed with moderate to severe depression.

And another study released earlier this year, by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, found that 30-minute aerobic workouts done three to five times a week cut depressive symptoms by 50 percent in young adults.

Theories abound as to how revving up the body helps uncloud the mind.

Robert E. Thayer is a professor of psychology at California State University, Long Beach, and the author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise. He said that while workouts probably affect key brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, physical activity may also trigger positive changes in other areas, too.

"Depression is a condition characterized by low energy and moderate tension, something I call 'tense tiredness,'" he said. But exercise has a clear "mood effect" that seems to ease that anxious but lethargic state, he said.

According to Thayer, moderate exercise -- a brisk 10-minute walk, for example -- results in a boosting of energy, although it may not be quite enough to relieve stress.

"More intense exercise -- the amount you'd engage in with a 45-minute aerobic workout -- does give a primary mood effect of reducing tension. It might also leave you with a little less energy because you'd be tired, of course," he said. "However, there's also some indication from the research that there's a 'rebound' effect an hour or so later, in terms of [increased] energy."

Blumenthal pointed to the more lasting psychological boost regular workouts can bring. "People who exercise might also have better self-esteem; it may help them feel better about themselves, having that great sense of accomplishment," he said.

Still, the experts acknowledged that truly depressed individuals often find it tough to jump into an exercise routine.

"Why do people not do the thing that's perhaps the most important thing for them to do?" said Thayer. "It's because a drop in energy is such a central component of depression -- you just don't have the energy to do the exercise."

He said the key to breaking that cycle is to start small.

"Thinking about going to the gym and doing all the stuff that's involved with that can be overwhelming for a depressed person," Thayer pointed out. "But if you think 'Hey, maybe I'll just walk down the street 30 yards or so, at a leisurely pace,' that's a start. And it turns out that your body becomes activated then -- you have more of an incentive to walk farther, to do more."

Loved ones can play a key role, too, urging a depressed friend or family member to join in with them as they work out. "Social support, peer pressure, family support -- all of that can be helpful, certainly in getting people to maintain exercise," Blumenthal said.

No one is saying that exercise is always a substitute for drug therapy, especially for the severely depressed. "But we also know that these drugs aren't effective for everyone -- about a third of people aren't going to get better with medication," Blumenthal said.

For those patients, exercise may prove a viable, worry-free alternative -- with one great fringe benefit.

"In addition to its mental health benefits, there are some clear cardiovascular benefits to exercise which we don't see with antidepressant drugs, of course," Blumenthal noted. So, he said, what keeps the mind fit strengthens the body, too. "You're ******* two birds with one stone."

More information

For more on recognizing and beating depression, head to the National Institute of Mental Health :

SOURCE: (www.nimh.nih.gov ).

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Posted

He said the key to breaking that cycle is to start small.
Thanks for the post Lindsay. I started walking a number of years ago and then worked up slowly to running short distances.
Loved ones can play a key role, too, urging a depressed friend or family member to join in with them as they work out. "Social support, peer pressure, family support -- all of that can be helpful, certainly in getting people to maintain exercise," Blumenthal said.

Through the encrouagement and help of a friend, I started to run even longer distances. Some say that LSD is great for depression-- also known as LONG, SLOW, DISTANCE. :hearts:

I try to get out at lunch each day while at work and run 3-4 miles. I'm fortunate to have a shower there and the ability to do this. I find though that an incredible amount of inertia seems to creep in if I miss one or two days of running. That's why I do my best to keep to a routine as much as possible.

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Posted

Hi lindsay,

Thanks for the article, It was inspiring, and since I was feeling anxious, I went for a brisk 10-15 min walk,

and I feel a little better. The only thing is when I start walking I just want to keep walking..........

Daryl

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Posted

I used to exercise like 4 or 5 hours a day when I was younger and I loved it. Now though everytime I do it it makes me mad and it makes me more depressed because I feel like I never do enough exercising.

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Posted

I find though that an incredible amount of inertia seems to creep in if I miss one or two days of running. That's why I do my best to keep to a routine as much as possible.

After the first few discussions with my psychologist, he told me i was a very loving person who needed to find a vent for my emotions. I joined a gym to burn off some extra steam. I try to go every 2nd day for a 1hr session.

However, whenever i pick up an injury/fall off the wagon and get blitzed and subsequently miss some workouts, i get really down. Several times this has led to me missing more workouts and getting even more down. Snowball effect. It takes a lot of effort to stand back up.

Its worrying that i've tied myself into something that is a guaranteed instant trigger if the routine is disturbed. I dont take any meds, but i seem hooked on the endorphins and dopamine from exercise.

Whatever keeps you sane, right? :hearts:

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I love to work out. My body doesn't know that yet though! When I do it, especially when I keep to a program or routine, I get an incredible feeling of power and strength (not like I'm going to take on the world or anything! haha). But MOTIVATION is where I need a kick in the ***! It's so hard for me to do things when I can't see the big picture or what the grand scheme or outcome will be other than momentary euphoria.

How do you get past it? Are there books on discipline? I doubt I'd read them anyway cause um, that might require discipline!

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I love to work out. My body doesn't know that yet though! When I do it, especially when I keep to a program or routine, I get an incredible feeling of power and strength (not like I'm going to take on the world or anything! haha). But MOTIVATION is where I need a kick in the ***! It's so hard for me to do things when I can't see the big picture or what the grand scheme or outcome will be other than momentary euphoria.

How do you get past it? Are there books on discipline? I doubt I'd read them anyway cause um, that might require discipline!

libra,

Setting goals really helps. What are you trying to achieve? Do you want to be able to lift a certain amount of weight? Run a certain distance? Complete a race?

Can you come up with a goal?

KA

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Hi KA,

Yes I have found in the past that I do better if I have a goal to strive for. I trained for a 10k once and would like to be able to run that distance again. And to know what to do to maintain that level of fitness once I reach it.

That's a start... I have a book on the same 12 week training program and I have started myself a blog to record my progress instead of keeping a paper journal - in hopes to combine my affection for running with my addiction to the computer into one do-able activity. LOL. So far the blog has been abbreviated by a week long camping trip and by my penchant for talking about nothing. Going to run today, and blog it again, so that at least I am running when doing nothing else.

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Posted

I find that having a goal race really helps me too libra. I'm kicking around the idea of a half marathon in Dec or Jan to help me stay on track. ;)

A lot of cities do their Race For The Cure in October. Might be a good one to shoot for!! Very moving if you've never done one.

KA

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Posted (edited)

See, that would be cool.. once I work up to the 10 k and maintain that level, moving on to half mar's and more would be awesome. I've always admired people that have the discipline and stamina to do that. I think it's in me, I just have to find it. For this moment, I'm just sitting in my workout gear eating a big bowl of fruit salad. I'm totally going to the gym after this!!!

But on the note of running for a cure, I have thought about doing that as a family member was recently diagnosed with MS. Interesting that you say it is 'moving'. No pun intended I'm sure. God, my jokes are irresponsibly placed. *sigh*

Edited by libra

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Posted

If you can run a 10K, you can do a half!! Honest!

I went right from the 5 K to the half (with more running to train). I've done 3 halfs now.

I tend to pick 'destination' races for half marathons and travel their with friends and meet other people I know there from online running clubs.

Hope that you can find a race that gets you pumped up!!

KA

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Posted

Cool, thanks for the tips KA!

Your enthusiasm is inspiring. :) Have an awesome day.

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Posted

exercise helped me a lot to clear my head--that's usually what I recommend to people

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Posted

I really love to exercise. I try to go to the gym four or five times a week. I usually lift weights first. I enjoy using free weights, machines, and exercises using my body weight as resistance. Then I usually do a cardiovascular workout. I am not much of a runner so I use a few different ellipticals throughout the week. I am trying this month to incorporate more rowing and stairstepping. I am hoping to one day become a personal trainer. It would be great to work with clients with different mental health issues. I want to help others find joy in exercise, because it has been such a crucial part of my treatment plan and recovery.

Katie :hearts:

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Posted

I used to enjoy walking 3 miles per day or 12 miles on a stationary Bike when the weather was bad. Then I was admitted into the hospital for ECT treatments. Now I don't go for walks anymore...A social thing, I don't like talking or meeting up with people. So I started riding the bike. However I'm not as committed as I once was. I cut down on distance and worked my way back to 12 miles per ride. I just can't get myself to do it on a regular basis anymore. I lost 60 pounds doing this and eating right, Which my eating habits are not as good as they once were. How can I get back into the routine without being tired or depressed while I do the workout. I'd hate to gain the weight back again. Any ideas?

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Posted

Exercise always does wonders for me. When I run I can even feel on top of the world and it clears my head. Buuuut, I have trouble with getting out there when I need it most, you know? I even belong to a gym. Used to go three times a week. Haven't gone in months. Am not planning to. I'd rather work out in my hideout called my basement now. Even then, I havn't done much. I'm glad my job is a huge workout.

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Posted

Exercise always does wonders for me.

That is so true for me! Even if I don't manage to get much else accomplished (which is becoming pretty regular nowadays!) I try to exercise, does wonders for my energy levels and seems to decrease my irritability and aggravation.

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Posted

Thanks for the info.

THe problem with me is that I get really bored when I run (I get bored with almost everything 5-10 minutes into it) so I can rarely exercise for a long time.

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Posted

I dont really exercise as such, because I get quite bored.

But I know what helps at times is chucking a good dance CD or turning the radio on and just dancing, it gets my heart pumping.

Not in the mood for it not, got no energy but it does work.

Mosaic :hearts:

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Posted

Depressed? Take a Hike

23 January 2006--AUSTIN, Texas (AP)

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Posted

I'm just starting to get into trying to walk every day. I haven't felt an improvement yet ... but I just started a few weeks ago.

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Posted

Going to the gym really helps me coz you just get this boost of energy and it lifts you up. Even throughout the day after I've been to the gym I get sudden little rushes to the head from going to the gym. Cycling also helps too. Anything energetic I think.

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Posted

Funny how this article was recently published because a lot of the people I know from the gym have exhibited tendencies of depression. Especially the more dedicated one. Now my question to anyone who may have any knowledge on the subject is if exercise would eliminate the need to see a therapist and get on meds? Or, if one is better of seeking therapy and getting exercise?

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Posted

It doesn't work for me.

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Posted (edited)

Funny how this article was recently published because a lot of the people I know from the gym have exhibited tendencies of depression. Especially the more dedicated one. Now my question to anyone who may have any knowledge on the subject is if exercise would eliminate the need to see a therapist and get on meds? Or, if one is better of seeking therapy and getting exercise?

Yeah I hear alot of celebrities who suffer from depression go to the gym. Eg- Trisha, Amy Winehouse etc.

In my experience, I find that excercise is great as a self help tool in preventing depression (you have to keep excercising throughout your life), and in trying to get better from depression. However, I think that you'd still need to take medication and get therapy because these are the things that really help you to get better. However if I didn't do any excercise (even if i was on meds) I don't think I would ever get better.

I think perhapps excercise could be used just on it's own for treatment of very mild depression though. Not quite sure though lol.

Goldstar xx

Edited by Goldstar

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