Exercising Helps Prevent Depression

The CDC estimates that 1 out of every 10 Americans report Depression.

Depression and mood disorders are sweeping the country in the same way obesity, diabetes and inactivity seem to be spreading nationwide. I think if I was using my detective skills, I might question if the three are related. Hmm….

Let’s start with a little background information about depression, and then I’m going to propose a solution.

First off, does this map remind you of any other maps? 

Chart: Age-standardized (to U.S. population) percentage of adults meeting criteria for current depression based on responses to Patient Health Questionnaire 8 by state/territory – Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2006 and 2008

Maybe this one…

Prevalence of Self-Reported Obesity Among U.S. Aduts BRFSS, 2011

Or this one…

One more…

I’m starting to see a pattern. I think it’s safe to say that the four of these things are interrelated.

Lets see if you’re caught up in the mix of these things…

Identifying Depression: What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

  • Saddness or Anxiety that lasts for weeks at a time.
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment

Who’s at Risk: CDC categorizes these groups to be more likely to experience major depression.

  • persons 45-64 years of age
  • women
  • blacks, Hispanics, non-Hispanic persons of other races or multiple races
  • persons with less than a high school education
  • those previously married
  • individuals unable to work or unemployed
  • persons without health insurance coverage

More and more people are without insurance and skipping their doctors appointments. We’re looking at our pharmacy bill and wondering, “Can I do without any of these medications?”


Exercise! To the Rescue!

  1. Exercise releases hormones in your brain to help regulate your mood. When you exercise, your brain releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals all work together to make you feel good.
  2. Exercise can force you into a regular breathing pattern. If you’ve ever had trouble breathing when you stress, you might want to go for a run instead of lying down. Exercising makes breathing a first priority while the stress signal from your brain, causing you to hyperventilate, becomes second priority.
  3. Exercise establishes positive behaviors/thoughts. Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University explains it like this,”Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.”
  4. Exercise helps make you new. Just 20-30 minutes of exercise a day can lead you towards health. One way to prevent mood disorders is to avoid stressful situations. The realization that your body is falling apart can be very stressful. Trust me, I work in healthcare. I would know.

 In Summary…

Let’s be more proactive. Chances are you spend a lot of time doing things you don’t really need to be doing. In fact these things may be leading towards a feeling of hopeless emptiness in your life. Fight that.  Get happy. Get healthy.

Rx: Exercise 20-30 minutes per day. No excuses. 

Go on! Get out of your house and see what’s going on outside. You can do it.

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