Exercise certainly isn’t a depression cure-all, but a new study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that heart-pumping, endorphin-boosting workouts actually promote happiness. Researchers say that more physically active people reported greater general feelings of excitement and enthusiasm when compared to less-active people. And beyond its protective effect against feelings of depression, exercise may reduce stress and help you secure a better night’s sleep. That’s why your favorite fitness routine can be an excellent addition to your depression treatment plan.
“Exercise stimulates the release of many of the brain chemicals thought to be in low supply when someone is battling depression,” explains David Muzina, MD, the founding director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Mood Disorders Treatment and Research.
Over the next few days, we will take a look at which exercises can do best for our depression:
When it comes to workouts that fight depression, aerobic and cardio exercises have the edge. “To date, the strongest evidence seems to support aerobic exercise,” says Dr. Muzina. While the correct “dose” of depression-fighting exercise is up for debate, some experts recommend 20 to 30 minutes most days of the week. A recent review of numerous scientific studies found no association between the intensity level of the exercise and its emotional benefit — so simply moving more is a great start.
Ever heard of runner’s high? “The most tangible example of exercise stimulating certain brain chemicals is the runner’s high that many athletes report experiencing once crossing a certain threshold of exertion while running,” explains Muzina. That euphoria is due to the release of endorphins in the brain in response to the sustained physical activity. “Endorphins are our body’s natural morphine and, when released by special glands in our brains, they can produce a sense of well-being or joy and also decrease pain levels.”