Depression’s Exercise Rx
When you’re depressed, the last thing you want to do is exercise even though you know that it can help. Exercise is so effective at boosting mood that the American Psychiatric Association included it in its official depression treatment guidelines.
Now, researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have penned the ideal depression-busting workout plan. Drawing from the results of previous studies, the paper was published in theJournal of Psychiatric Practice.
How can exercise help beat the blues? “The beneficial effect could be a result of increased endorphins or neurotransmitters such as serotonin,” says James Blumenthal, PhD, a depression researcher at Duke University who was not associated with the UT Southwestern article. “It could also be the result of more psychological processes such as increased self-confidence, greater feelings of control, or reduced anxiety.”
Personal trainer Molly Galbraith has seen such changes firsthand in her clients. “I think a lot of times when people are suffering from depression they feel like they can’t do anything, like they’re stuck,” says Galbraith, a co-owner of J&M Strength and Conditioning in Lexington, Kentucky. “Exercise, even getting outside and walking for 40 minutes, can give you a big feeling of accomplishment.”
If you’ve been feeling hopeless, make sure to talk with your doctor. Together with your doctor’s recommendations, try this science-based depression-busting workout, created by Chad Rethorst, PhD, and Madhukar Trivedi, MD, from UT Southwestern.
The Anti-Depression Workout
Complete either aerobic or strength training 3 to 5 times a week using the following guidelines.
Aim to do cardio activity, such as walking, for 45 to 60 minutes. ASports Medicinemeta-analysis of workouts lasting from 30 to 60 minutes found that cardio lasting from 45 minutes to an hour had the greatest antidepressant effects. The researchers also suggest an intensity of 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
“That’s a wide range, but a general rule is that you could still hold a conversation,” says Charlotte Ord, owner of Phoenix Pro Fitness in the United Kingdom. “You should notice an increase in your breathing rate, an elevated heart rate, and an increase in body temperature.” The good news: How you exercise doesn’t matter, research shows. Galbraith suggests a hilly hike, swimming, tennis, or any activity that you enjoy.
Do 3 to 8 sets of 8 repetitions, including exercises that work your upper and lower body. (For a free PDF plan, downloadPrevention’sTotal Body Shape-Up Workout here.) The weights should be about 80% of your one-rep max (the heaviest weight you can lift for one repetition), the researchers say. “If you’re lifting 8 reps and you feel like you can do 2 to 3 more reps, that’s about 80%,” says Galbraith.
If this is too much for you, just do what you can. “Exercise doses below the current recommendations may still be beneficial for patients with major depressive disorder,” the UT Southwestern team writes.
Video: Lift Depression With These 3 Prescriptions- Without-Pills | Susan Heitler | TEDxWilmington
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