According to the National Institute of Mental Illness, approximately 12 million women in the United States experience depression every year. The rate of depression in women is almost double that of men. More people suffer from depression than AIDS, cancer, and coronary heart disease. About fifteen percent of those affected with severe and chronic depression commit suicide. It’s not entirely clear why women are more prone to depression but some research indicates that hormones, genetics, social issues including abuse and violence, as well as personality types can all pay a role. While the news sounds bad for women, the encouraging fact is that depression is a highly treatable disease. Common treatments for the disorder are medication and therapy. However, exercise is playing an increasing role in the treatment of depression as science brings a better understanding of brain chemistry and the treatment benefits of exercise.
One of the key neurotransmitters in the brain is serotonin. The link between depression and serotonin has been well established and in fact, serotonin has wide ranging influence over a number of the brains functions. Serotonin is linked to a mental health diagnosis including depression and anxiety as well as other problems such as hypertension, obesity, nausea and migraines. Increasing serotonin levels has a positive effect on the symptoms of these disorders. The newest medications used in the treatment of depression for example, SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) work to increase serotonin. Exercise offers an alternative or supplemental way to raise the levels of serotonin. The more vigorous the exercise, the better results but even moderate exercise has positive results.
Some studies have suggested that the benefits of exercise as a treatment for depression, rival medication and psychotherapy. Exercise may be the answer for those who want to try something before starting a medication regime, or for those who have already tried everything else to no avail. For some, the thought of a half an hour of exercise in overwhelming. It can be difficult to find the motivation for exercise when feelings of depression take over. The exercise regime doesn’t have to begin at the optimum level though to be helpful. A study by Duke University actually indicates that even a simple ten minute walk can begin to lift some of the symptoms of depression.
For people with depression, the recommendation for good treatment benefits and symptoms reduction is about three hours of exercise each week, or a half hour a day. This schedule has shown real mental health benefits by reducing the depressive symptoms. Starting with ten minutes a day and slowly working up to thirty minutes a day can be a manageable program for someone struggling to overcome depression. Beginning the program with a supportive friend or family member can make all the difference.
Depression strikes about 17 million American adults each year and people with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attach than those without depression according to the National Institute on Mental Illness. The need to treat this illness is clear. Walking, running or other forms of exercise can make the difference by reducing symptoms and treating both the body and the mind.