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.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Are anti­de­pres­sants effec­tive?

Methyl tetrahy­dro­fo­late sup­ple­men­ta­tion and depres­sion

Love exer­cise or loathe it? It may be in your genes




About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website, askdrlavine.com, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at drlavine@yourbodyofknowledge.com or at 212-400-9663.
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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:

    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.

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