How to Use Exercise to Battle Depression

I often encourage clients suffering from depression, anxiety and addiction to pursue aerobic exercise.  And understandably, they often ask me why this is so important.   The reasons, which have been documented in multiple studies, — is that 30-45 minutes of aerobics per day drastically increase the brain’s neural chemistry.  Specifically this activity stimulates the massive release of endorphins and enkephalins — naturally occurring polypeptides (complex proteins) that are hundred times more potent than drugs like Oxycontin in terms of controlling pain.   They also have tremendous mood enhancing effects, and through complex mechanisms — accelerate the release of serotonin and dopamine – key transmitters involved in up regulating mood.

The beauty of this is that any form of aerobics will work.    I usually recommend going with an exercise that you are already familiar with and enjoy doing, as statistically this is likely to increase your compliance.   If you haven’t exercised in ages, or there’s no exercise that you have discovered that you like — I encourage patients to experiment.  Vinyasa yoga is an excellent choice because it’s rigorous, disciplined, and there is something about going through this ancient practice in a group that often breaks social isolation.   The only exercise that I caution people about is jogging — because long term studies of people who job show that it isn’t good for the joints.    But there are so many options out there,  why not explore?  It”s an invaluable tool in battling so many debilitating psychiatric symptoms, and it’s benefits for overall health are indisputable.

David Salvage, MD, FAPM

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