How physical exercises help to battle depression?
For one, physical exercise may be a promising intervention given its low barriers. Low cost or even no cost, easy accessibility, and its proved potential for improving symptoms of depression make it a great tool. The general outcome from research indicates that exercise can bring about many physiological changes, such as improvement in mood, self-esteem and lower levels of stress and anxiety. The form of aerobic exercise, for instance, may help against mild depression. Stimulating norepinephrine – a neurotransmitter which is related to mood, and raising endorphin levels by releasing these hormones during the exercise. Based on these points of supporting literature, it can be advisable to at least incorporate exercise as a supplement to therapy.
Further studies found that exercise is an effective treatment and is comparable to antidepressant therapy. Also, a few researches have examined the different characteristics of exercise, such as type, intensity, duration or frequency. According to Helgadóttir et al. exercise is at least the same effect in treating depression (mild to moderate severity) as treatment as usual by a physician. In addition, all intensity from low to high, including yoga, aerobic or sprint training on the other end, has the same beneficial effect. Hassmén, Koivula, Uutela (2000) concluded that individuals who are physically active 2 or 3 times a week have a significantly lower level of depression as well as better coping mechanisms for stress and anger, compared to those who spend less time exercising. Furthermore, they also develop a higher sense of overall psychological well-being and social assimilation. Dunn et al. (2005) also found supporting evidence in this regard. They found that equal amount of physical activity to that of the minimum recommendations (17.5-kcal/kg/week) was more effective than a lower amount. Interestingly, frequency over this specific threshold (3 vs five times a week) did not make any difference in effectiveness. All these results suggest that exercise performed at any intensity can be equally effective in treatment for depression as compared to treatment as usual by a physician.