Treating Depression Naturally: Combat Depression with Exercise

| 12/15/2010 12:23:09 PM

I feel like every time I turn around, someone is touting the many benefits of exercise—just 30 minutes of moderate activity a day is supposed to lower the risk of breast cancer, raise levels of good cholesterol and cut your risk for developing heart disease.

Physical exercise benefits more than just the body. Aerobic activity can help improve memory and mood and has been shown through countless studies to have a positive effect on depression. Exercising releases endorphins, a feel-good brain chemical with morphine-like qualities, as well regulates neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine, brain chemicals that are lowered during depression.

yoga women 
If energy and motivation are obstacles to starting an exercsie routine, begin with a less intense exercise, such as yoga. Photo By lululemon athletica/Courtesy Flickr. 

While exercise provides an immediate boost to our mood, maintaining a consistent exercise routine has long-term positive effects on brain chemistry. Scientists at the University of Georgia discovered that a few weeks of exercise activated genes that control the brain’s level of galanin, a neurotransmitter that controls the body’s response to stress by releasing norepinephrine. The researchers concluded that exercise makes the brain more resistant to stress—which in turn can help us manage our emotions better.

Because exercising requires energy and motivation—elements distinctly lacking in those suffering from depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder—it can be one of the most difficult lifestyle changes to make as part of the TLC program. Traditional forms of exercise, such as hopping on a treadmill or lifting weights, leave little to look forward to, making it difficult to keep up with an exercise routine.

bicycle enthusiasts
Finding an activity that you're passionate about and asking friends to join you will help you stick with an exercise routine. Photo By Katie Harris/Courtesy Flickr.