Depression & Exercise

Depression & Exercise teaser
Depression is a concerning and growing condition that can greatly affect an individual’s quality of life. It’s typically managed in primary care by pharmacology and psychological interventions, however the practice of engaging in exercise as a form of treatment is only relatively new.   

New evidence has shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing depression and anxiety disorders and helps manage depressive symptoms. 

A study was conducted where 156 patients aged 55-70 years of age with depression took part in a group program of aerobic exercise for 16 weeks. This was as effective as pharmacotherapy intervention in reducing symptoms. They then followed up each patient up after 6 months and results showed that the effects were long-lasting.

Why does exercise play a positive role in depression?

Recent evidence suggests that a lack of exercise and a poor diet can increase your risk of developing depression or worsening symptoms. Exercising on a regular basis in conjunction with a balanced diet improves sleep, decreases waist circumference and weight resulting in an improvement in self-esteem and mood.

How much exercise?

The recommendations by Exercise is Medicine Australia recommends moderate intensity aerobic exercise such as running, walking or cycling for 30 – 60 minutes at least three times a week and high intensity resistance training such as gym or home based exercises at least twice a week.

What If I am limited to what I can do?

Choose exercises that you think will be enjoyable and start off small. Gradually increase your physical activity level week by week until you reach a level that is sustainable and that you are happy with. Remember, the recommendations are only recommendations.

If you have any conditions that you are concerned with that might stop you from taking part in an exercise program or you have no idea what to do, consult a local exercise physiologist to prescribe a tailored exercise program for your capabilities and needs.

Travis King
Exercise Physiologist
360 Health + Community

Stanton, R., & Reaburn, P. (2013). Exercise and the Treatment of Depression: A review of the Exercise Program Variables. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 17(2), 117-182

Jacka, N. F., & Berk, M. (2012). Depression, Diet and Exercise. School of Medicine, Deakin University.
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