The prevalence of mental health disorders is growing, and so are the costs to treat it.
Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues are striking people at an alarming rate, and some may even argue it’s becoming a national health epidemic.
So what can we do about it? There’s one simple, inexpensive, and all-natural depression-fighting method I’m going to tell you about today.
The Causes of Depression
But first, what causes depression? It can be a combo of biological, genetic, psychological, and environmental factors. There are many reasons why you or someone you know could be experiencing depression or even thoughts of suicide.
For example, it can be triggered by an illness, certain medications, a sudden loss or traumatic event, loneliness, stress, conflict, or change in your life or the world around you, or substance abuse. Sometimes there is no triggering event you can put your finger on.
Whatever it is that has pushed you into depression, expensive treatment such as pharmaceuticals or psychologists might not always offer the full relief you deserve.
Exercise Can Ease Depression
A brand-new study published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that engaging in exercise or merely increasing physical fitness could lower the impact of mental health troubles and reduce the risk of death in depression sufferers.
Researchers looked at a group of 5,420 middle-aged men who’d reported emotional distress ranging from anxiety to suicidal thoughts. Some had undergone professional counseling, too.
After running on a treadmill in a lab setting to measure cardio-respiratory fitness, each male participant was classified into a low, moderate, or high fitness level. Eight years later, researchers found that men with higher fitness levels had a lower risk of dying from all causes.
“Big deal,” you might be thinking; fit people should live longer because they have healthier lifestyles than those who are not…right?
But, in this study, regardless of overall lifestyle, men who exercised were less likely to die during the study period. Also, there is little reason to expect these results are specific to men. Women would likely experience the same benefits.
However, this is not the first study linking mental and physical health, and it very certainly won’t be the last. These studies repeatedly indicate that even moderate-intensity exercise can improve mental health, relieve stress, and provide you with a better overall sense of well-being.
Walk Your Way to Improved Mental Health
Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive; certain types of exercise, such as going for a walk, swim, or bike ride, are easily accessible, cheap, and safe. Exercise can actually save you money by preventing illness and injury and provide additional benefits, like making new friends, forming new experiences, and looking at your neighborhood or city differently.
These all can have positive effects on mental health. It is recommended that you get about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Now, do I think exercise should be a replacement therapy for people suffering from serious mental health conditions? Of course not. I think it is a great way to complement existing treatments and help people with mild depression or anxiety feel a bit better but it is not something you should abandon other treatments for.
Sui, X., et al., “Cardiorespiratory Fitness and All-Cause Mortality in Men With Emotional Distress,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, June 2017; http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2017.01.025.
Shea, M., “Cardio fitness can help save men with depression” New York Post, May 22, 2017; http://nypost.com/2017/05/22/cardio-fitness-can-help-save-men-with-depression/, last accessed May 30, 2017.