There’s been a rise in the rates of depression and anxiety. The number of older adults who are reporting these issues—and are subsequently receiving medical care for them—is increasing. Standard medical treatments commonly include medications, which can have several side effects including dizziness, falls, and even greater mental health issues. Can exercise help with the control of depression and anxiety?
As people age, they can have a tendency to develop chronic disease. Some of these diseases include heart disease, stroke, arthritis, and diabetes. Research has previously indicated that older individuals who are experiencing one or several chronic diseases can commonly suffer from poor mental health. Research conducted on people suffering from heart disease has indicated that patients who engage in physical activity less frequently are more likely to experience lower mental health scores. However, increasing the levels of physical activity can clearly improve mental health and mental well-being in the same group of individuals.
The research on the link between exercise and depression is interesting, to say the least. It becomes quite evident that exercise can help people who are otherwise healthy, have some type of clinical disease, or are suffering from depression and anxiety. This occurs for men and women and is most often noticed in individuals who currently suffer from some type of mood disorder. In one study, changes in mood scores were noticed after one 20-30 minute bout of exercise which consisted of swimming, walking, or jogging and after a 10 week exercise program.
So how does exercise affect our mood to such a degree? The theory is that exercise affects the levels of chemicals within the brain called endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals which can bind to specific sites within the brain that affect mood. Certain drugs and foods can actually affect our mood and mental well-being in the same manner. Exercise can also lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and cause relaxation. These factors can help you feel better. Certainly, the effects of exercise on your appearance can also change your mood for the better because you will feel better about yourself.
What about the long term effects of an exercise program on mood and feelings of well-being?
Research conducted on a group of adults following a 12 week cycling program showed improvements in mood, anxiety scores, depression, and self-worth scales compared to a group who did not participate in the exercise program. There was also a significant difference in the scores of the subjects in the exercise group taken just before the 12 week test period compared with their scores after the 12 weeks of exercise. Again, the exercise group experienced a significant positive difference in how they felt after participating in the 12 week exercise trial. After a 12 month follow-up, those subjects in the exercise group had scores which were significantly improved compared to their baseline scores despite the same or less activity. This study shows that regular exercise will improve your mood and keep you feeling happier for a prolonged period of time.
From a personal perspective, I find that exercise keeps me centered, less stressed, and happier. I certainly notice a big difference in how I feel mentally when I don’t exercise. When I do feel a bit sad, exercise can quickly make me feel much better. In my opinion, exercise is the key to anxiety and depression caused by stress.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Izawa, K.P., et al., “Association between mental health and physical activity in patients with chronic heart failure,” Disabil Rehabil. April 25, 2013.
Guszkowska, M., [Effects of exercise on anxiety, depression and mood], Psychiatr Pol. July-August 2004; 38(4): 611-20.
DiLorenzo, T.M., et al., “Long-term effects of aerobic exercise on psychological outcomes,” Prev Med. January 1999; 28(1): 75-85.