Recent studies have shown that exercise continues to be one of the best treatment protocols to alleviate depression. Exercise can actually improve mood and motivation, especially in people with heart failure (1). This new study, published in the Journal of American Medical Association is exciting because depression is a very common ailment among those with heart failure which can lead to many problems with rehabilitation. Up to 40% of people suffering from heart disease are clinically depressed.
Exercise has been shown to be safe for people with heart failure, and that
exercise does not need to be strenuous or time consuming in order to see a difference in mental health. It doesn’t have to be training for a big race or spending long hours in a gym. To see results and significant improvements in mental health, reduced hospitalizations and fewer deaths, exercise sessions need to be three times a week for thirty minutes. With the new findings showing such benefits of exercise in heart-failure patients where the possibility of depression is more likely, it confirms many previous studies of depression and exercise.
Exercise has long been recommended as a helpful addition to depression medications but is still not widely accepted as a main treatment. Exercise is associated not only with physical health benefits, but it also is an important component for maintenance as well as improvement of mental health. Antidepressant drugs cost Americans $10 billion each year and have many common side effects: sleep disturbances, nausea, tremors, and changes in body weight. Exercise is free and has no side effects other than possibly losing weight and gaining some muscle.
Many clinical trials have shown again and again that patients who follow regular aerobic-exercise routines see improvement in their depression to the same degree as those treated with antidepressants, and that both groups do better than patients given a placebo. Although the data in this field is limited, the trials all seem to show the same thing: exercise boosts mood. It relieves symptoms of depression and also keeps it from coming back.
Many studies show a link between exercise and the reduction of anxiety. According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, anxiety is “distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune.” Most of the research on exercise and anxiety has been of an aerobic nature. The best aerobic exercise prescription for anxiety, depression or stress is one that works for you. If you enjoy the exercise you chose (and your doctor has given you the “ok”), you are more likely to stick with the routine. It appears that even short bursts of 5 minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate antianxiety effects. The research also indicates that those individuals training for periods of 10 to 15 weeks will receive the greatest benefits.
Exercise can even help us manage stress much more effectively. It appears that the mode of exercise that most helps in stress reduction, as with anxiety, is aerobic exercise. Some research is beginning to show that the more aerobically fit an individual is, the better they can manage stress. The role of exercise should be used as a preventative intervention in managing stress as opposed to a corrective intervention.
Many times when battling depression, the most difficult part of the exercise plan is to find the motivation to begin. It is important to meditate on God’s Word to relieve your stress and anxiety and gain the strength to begin your new program. Practice trusting in God
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