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Using exercise to combat depression and other mental illnesses is nothing new. Exercise has a unique way of bringing peace, comfort, confidence and happiness to the mind.

Depression is classified as known, treatable mental condition. As such, it shows signs and symptoms which are measurable and diagnosable just as any other medical condition. Similar to other medical conditions, pharmaceuticals have been developed to alter specific physiological functions to treat depression, and reverse its effects.



If you suffer from depression and are looking for a holistic, alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat your condition, first check with your doctor. Never self-medicate, or change dosages without the express recommendation of your physician. As a part of a holistic treatment to depression, exercise plays a strong role. Exercise, and movement in general, is what people were designed to do. Doing so also causes a positive hormonal response.

The Rush

If you have ever exercised vigorously and experienced the sensation shortly after which makes you feel invincible? A feeling of euphoria is often reported by people who exercise regularly and engage in high intensity workouts. This is the rush. It is the positive hormonal response your body gives after exercise. It is a perfectly normal reaction which is initiated after the heart has been pumping and the muscles contracting for a short while. It triggers the pituitary gland in the brain to release hormones called endorphins, which are what give the sensation of happiness.

The idea to use workouts as a way of treating depression is based on this very principle. However, several dozen studies have examined the theory that exercise can treat depression. They have found that in general, exercise can treat the symptoms of mild and moderate depression.

Research on Depression and Exercise

A study review which looked at research on exercise and depression concluded that exercise does elevate mood for a period of time. The studies showed that consistent, moderate intensity exercise could help to milder depressions, and may help play a role in treating severe depression.

A published Harvard study dating back to 1999 compared the effects of exercise and prescription anti-depressants on a group of participants. The 156 participants suffered from mild to moderate depression. They were divided into 3 test groups. The first group was treated with an anti-depressant, the second was prescribed a regular exercise routine, and the third was prescribed both the drug and exercise. After 16 weeks, the level of depression was measured in each group. The study found that the group scores were essentially the same, easing in all treatments, and 60% to 70% of the participants in all groups were no longer classified as severe.

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