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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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty 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.

This entry was posted in Anxiety, Depression and Stress, Exercise & Fitness and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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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