A few weeks ago we discussed how exercise provides the body many physical health benefits, from improved cardiovascular health, immune health and more. Now, what if I told you exercise is associated with improved psychological health as well? That’s right, regular exercise is associated with reduced depressive symptoms, stress and anxiety.

Over 16 million Americans are depressed and 40 million Americans have anxiety disorders. People who are depressed may show it in various ways including trouble going about day-day activities, sleep disturbances, anxiety & cognitive impairments among other things.

The Science

Following a regular exercise routine has been shown to improve depressive symptoms. Viola Certel-Knochel found in her study “Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Cognitive Performance & Individual Psychopathology in Depressive & Schizophrenia Patients” 22 patients with major depressive disorder received cognitive training & aerobic physical activity & mental relaxation training three times a week for four weeks.

At the end of four weeks it was found that visual learning, working memory, speed of processing, and quality of life improved in comparison to the control group. Patients in the exercise group also saw major reductions in depressive symptoms and anxiety. Duclos & Tabarin, in their article “Exercise and the Hypothalamo-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis” they found that exercise is associated with an increase in corticotropin and decrease in cortisol, two hormones that contribute to positive mood changes.

As many improvements that come from keeping a regular fitness routine, NOT exercising is associated with increased symptoms of depression and anxiety. Marco Tulio de Mello, in his study “Relationship Between Physical Activity, Depression, and Anxiety Symptoms found that people who don’t exercise are 2.1x more likely to show signs of depression and 2.5x more likely to show anxiety. This shows that keeping a regular fitness routine is vital to combating feelings of depression and anxiety, but what consist of a regular fitness routine?

Markus Nystrom found in the study “Treating Major Depression with Physical Activity” that an individualized exercise routine, performed three times a week, under the supervision of a specialist is recommended for treating depression. Robert Stanton solidified these findings in his study “Exercise & the Treatment of Depression where he stated that supervised aerobic exercise, completed three times a week at a moderate intensity for a minimum of nine weeks is effective treatment for depression.

Exercise is important to gaining and maintaining physical and mental health. Each week it is of vast importance to get at least 30 minutes of exercise , 3 times per week. Your body will thank you for it!

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