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Exercise Treatment for Depression, Anxiety

Suf­fer­ing from depres­sion or anx­i­ety?  Hit the gym, not the pill bottle

Just like air to breathe and water to drink, phys­i­cal exer­cise is one of life’s essen­tials.   The evi­dence of its health ben­e­fits keeps pil­ing up.

And the line between phys­i­cal health and men­tal health gets more and more blurry.  Now it’s been proven that exer­cise is more effec­tive than med­ica­tion at reliev­ing the symp­toms of depres­sion and anx­i­ety – the two most com­mon men­tal health conditions.

The lat­est expert to weigh in on the topic is Dou­glas Noordsy, MD, who addressed the 2012 US Psy­chi­atric and Men­tal Health Congress.

Dr. Noord­sky is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor and direc­tor of psy­chosis ser­vices at the Geisel School of Med­i­cine at Dart­mouth Col­lege.  Here’s his con­clu­sion from a large study of peo­ple with depression:

The patients who were inde­pen­dently exer­cis­ing on their own after the treat­ment period had half the odds for meet­ing the depres­sion cri­te­ria 6 months later com­pared to patients who didn’t exer­cise after the 4-month study.”

That’s a lower relapse rate than among those patients who were tak­ing SSRI’s, one of the stan­dard drug reg­i­mens for depression.

Alle­vi­ate Anx­i­ety Too

For those expe­ri­enc­ing anx­i­ety dis­or­der, Dr. Noord­sky also touted the ben­e­fits of car­dio­vas­cu­lar conditioning.

A state of anx­i­ety is asso­ci­ated with increases in heart and res­pi­ra­tory rate.  Once your heart starts rac­ing and you’re breath­ing heav­ily, your anx­i­ety increases even more as part of a neg­a­tive feed­back spiral.

One of the impor­tant pos­i­tive effects of phys­i­cal exer­cise is it allows peo­ple to become con­di­tioned to hav­ing their heart rate and res­pi­ra­tory rate increase when they’re not asso­ci­ated with anx­i­ety, thereby address­ing the [feed­back] triggers.”

Light­ing a Fire Under Someone’s Keister

Mean­while, as this cut­ting edge sci­en­tific research con­tin­ues to emerge, we’re still a nation addicted to pills.  More than 164 mil­lion pre­scrip­tions were writ­ten in 2008 for anti­de­pres­sants, the last year for which detailed sta­tis­tics are avail­able.  That adds up to $9.6 billion.

Boost­ing inter­nal health has proven time and again to have a much big­ger impact than treat­ing dis­ease once it arises.  This brings up the most impor­tant ques­tion con­fronting any doc­tor today – how do you help peo­ple to do the things for them­selves that are known to be healthy?

Many of my patients – and I hope most of my patients – already are reg­u­lar exercisers.

But what about those who are not?  And what about the untold mil­lions who would never darken the door of a chi­ro­prac­tic office in the first place?  How can they be reached?

It’s a com­plex issue that is as deep as the human psy­che and broad as the human community.

Here’s a start:  if you’re read­ing this arti­cle, get up from your desk and go out and take a walk.  And grab a friend, fam­ily mem­ber or co-worker.

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2 Responses to “Exercise Treatment for Depression, Anxiety”

  1. Exer­cise can reduce anx­i­ety, it is a great start for man­ag­ing anx­i­ety. Exer­cise reduces the like­li­hood that inac­tiv­ity related anx­i­ety affects you. It will help to improve the sleep, burn the cortisol.

  2. George Blomme says:

    Ron–
    Good point for all of us to remem­ber. Mod­er­ate phys­i­cal stress using the body for walk­ing and more, beat pre­scribed drugs in many cases. Its cer­tainly worth a try.
    GB

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