A good workout could be good for your mood, new research shows. According to a report published in the JAMA Psychiatry, exercise can effectively lower a person's risk of depression. This study holds promise for treating mental illness in a way that improves the mind as well as the body.
Scientists have long recognized that emotion and mood appear to be linked, but there is only scant evidence regarding how one effects the other i.e. do people become less depressed if they exercise or does exercise promote positive feelings?
Researchers from University College London and McGill University set out to find the answer to this interesting mystery.
They selected 11,000 men and women between the ages of 23 years and 50 years of age for a study that examined the relationship between exercise and depression and to determine the direction of the relationship.
The researchers had information about depressive symptoms and frequency of physical activity per week for people at 23, 33, 42 or 50 years of age.
Information about the participants physical activity was obtained via questionnaire.
Exercise Promotes Good Mental Health
The researchers observed a trend that for most ages studied, depressive symptoms decreased with increased physical activity per week. In other words, the more often the people exercised the better their mood.
People age 50 who participated in frequent exercise each week were able to lower their depressive symptoms considerably.
When they looked at 23 year old participants who remained inactive for 5 years, they noted no change in the level of depressive symptoms. But they noted a lower mean number of depressive symptoms when 23 year olds increased their physical activity to 3 times per week.
They noted that no difference in frequency of activity for people who had no depressive symptoms at age 43 years who later had 0 or 1 symptom of depression at 48 years of age.
The research team had based the number of depressive symptoms on a scale of 0 to 15 items which were measured using the Psychological subscale of the Malaise Inventory.
The researchers concluded that a bidirectional relationship between physical activity and depression existed but during "adult life" it tended to be in the direction from physical activity to depressive symptoms.
That conclusion makes a lot of sense when you stop to think about it.
Exercise and mood tend to influence each other. People who are depressed are less likely to exercise than a person who isn't depressed. However, when a depressed person does participate in some form of physical activity, it can have a positive effect on his/her mood.
Physical exercise stimulates the release of endorphins from the brain and pituitary gland. Endorphins are chemical messengers which promote a sense of well-being and satisfaction.
Since these neurochemicals make a person feel good, we would expect to see a reduction in depressive symptoms among people who exercise.
Closely related to this is the greater sense of confidence and satisfaction with one's appearance which tend to accompany people who regularly exercise.
When a person is more confident and upbeat, they are less likely to feel depressed.
Moreover, exercise gives a people something to do. A person can't sit around doing nothing if they're physically active.
People who have something to look forward to are less likely to be depressed than people who have no hope.
This is one of the reasons why school systems include physical education as part of the curriculum. Physical fitness is good for the mind and the body.
If a person isn't active in his/her youth it can lead to depression which can affect their ability to function throughout life.
Thus educators encourage students to participate in physical activity at a young age; getting into the habit early can reap long term benefits.
Plus exercise is good for the entire family. When one person gets involved with exercise, it might encourage others to get in on the act, thus making for a healthier and happier family.
"Findings suggest that activity may alleviate depressive symptoms in the general population and, in turn, depressive symptoms in early adulthood may be a barrier to activity." the research team concluded.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
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Pinto Pereira SM, Geoffroy MC, & Power C (2014). Depressive symptoms and physical activity during 3 decades in adult life: bidirectional associations in a prospective cohort study. JAMA psychiatry, 71 (12), 1373-80 PMID: 25321867
"Exercise Cuts Your Risk Of Becoming Depressed" copyright © 2015 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.