Fight Depression Using Exercise

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Fight Depression Using Exercise

Exercise does not just help you maintain good mental health, it is also promising as a way to fight depression.

Numerous studies have found that exercise can be as effective an anti-depressant as antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy. In fact, as renowned naturopath Michael Murray pointed out, “regular exercise may be the most powerful natural antidepressant available”. [1]

As such, in this article, we will be focusing on what exactly needs to be done to enjoy the maximal anti-depressant benefits of exercise.


It needs to be aerobic

The bulk of evidence on exercise and depression cure suggests that it is aerobic exercise that does the trick when it comes to dealing with depression. Nonetheless, there is a small number of studies that also suggest that non-aerobic exercises like weight-lifting can bring about similar psychological benefits to fight depression. More research is needed in these areas. [1]

When it comes to aerobic exercise, it refers to any activity (including sports, games, or even lawn mowing) that improves your body’s capability to extract oxygen from the air and distribute it to the working muscles. Such an activity will make your heart race and make you breathe deeply and rapidly (such that it becomes harder to talk and your sentences are choppy). [1, 2]


Types of aerobic exercises that help

As for the types of aerobic exercises that help in depression, contrary to conventional thinking, aerobic exercise does not mean you must run or jog. Neither do you need to engage in very vigorous workout in order to enjoy the antidepressant effects of exercise.

In fact, many depressives in running programs to fight depression spend most of their time walking, and at most jogging in spurts in the first few weeks. Yet “most… begin to feel better within a week and feel virtually well within 3 weeks”, according to Roger Eischens and John Greist, pioneers in running therapy [1].

This means that walking can be sufficient to fight depression.


The critical factors

Rather than the type of aerobic exercise, what is actually more crucial for overcoming depression is whether you get your heart rate up to the aerobic range (while walking or engaging in your chosen activity), and whether you keep at it long enough to enjoy the healing effects of exercise. [2]

To gauge whether your heart rate has reached or is within the aerobic range, an accurate but more technical way is first to calculate your age-adjusted maximum heart rate (the maximum number of times your heart can possibly beat in a minute). [1, 2]

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