Exercise for Depression: It Works!

Exercise for Depression

“I worked my tushie off on the treadmill this morning. Even threw around some weights. Thinkin’ a good day’s ahead!?”

Well, according to the results of a brand-spankin’-new study, your hopes for a good rest of the day are well-placed. Yes, exercise for depression works.

Being Physically Active Ramps-Up Mood

The results just published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, a team of Penn State University researchers tell us folks who are more physically active enjoy higher levels of excitement and enthusiasm.

And even if you’re typically physically active, you can expect elevated levels of excitement and enthusiasm – an immediate boost – if you crank your physical activity up a notch or two.

According to study team member David Conroy, a professor of kinesiology…

You don’t have to be the fittest person who is exercising every day to receive the feel-good benefits of exercise. It’s a matter of taking it one day at a time, of trying to get your activity in, and then there’s this feel-good reward afterwards.

That’s an important point, because the positives of physical activity in the short-term make it all the easier to keep up the good work – and enjoy the long-term bennies.

Putting the Study Together

Let’s chat how the study was structured…

The team recruited 190 university students and asked them to keep life-experience diaries for eight days.  The participants were asked to record notes about free-time physical activity (15+ minutes), sleep quantity and quality, and mental states such as perceived stress and feeling states. When it came to physical activity, the participants were asked to note if it was mild, moderate, or vigorous.

So the notes were turned-in, and the research team separated the feeling states into these categories…

  • Pleasant-activated feelings exemplified by excitement and enthusiasm
  • Pleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by satisfaction and relaxation
  • Unpleasant-activated feelings exemplified by anxiety and anger
  • Unpleasant-deactivated feelings exemplified by depression and sadness

The Take-Away for Depression (and Anxiety Disorder) Sufferers

Indeed, the participants who were more physically active reported more pleasant-activated feelings than those who were less active. So you say, “Well, maybe these pleasant feelings weren’t entirely due to physical activity. What about, say, the sleep factor?”

And that’s why the participants were asked to record sleep quantity/quality. The team, then, was able to rule it out as a contributor to the feel-goods.

Here’s a great summation from Conroy…

Knowing that moderate and vigorous physical activity generates a pleasant-activated feeling, rather than just a pleasant feeling, might help to explain why physical activity is so much more effective for treating depression rather than anxiety.

People dealing with anxious symptoms don’t need an increase in activation. If anything, they might want to bring it down some. In the future, we plan to look more closely at the effects of physical activity on mental health symptoms.

So are you feeling depressed? Crank-up the physical activity!

Speaking of the benefits of physical activity, check-out these important chipur articles…

Depression Relief: Time for a second AD? Not so fast!

How to Exercise for Depression & Anxiety Relief

More chipur Feelin’ Better articles? Look no further.

  • freefalling February 13, 2012, 5:29 am

    Interesting to hear that physical activity may not be as beneficial for anxiety as for depression.
    I’ve been using walking for my evening anxiety. 
    I get outside and walk.
    Usually fairly intensely –  I’m all adrenalized.
    But I just keep going til it’s all burnt off – usually takes an hour.
    And I find the rhythm of fast walking very soothing and calming.

    But equally if I find myself flat as pancake in the evening and I’m dragging my sorry backside around
    the streets/lake/wherever – it takes forever to find a rhythm (a different one from when I’m adrenalized) but eventually it comes and when I’ve finished my walk I feel more energized and awake.

    It always seems to be more about the rhythm of the body than anything else, which is kind of interesting, isn’t it?  Because we rock ourselves when distressed or can be soothed by gentle stroking or patting – which is just using another sort of rhythm .

    • chipur February 13, 2012, 8:39 pm

      Cool observation, ff. I have always been able to be soothed by rhythms – including music. Same thing, right?