Peter Benedict, St. Andrew’s College Grad: Is Exercise Good for Depression?

Peter Benedict, St. Andrew’s College graduate, is a professional sports trainer for athletes whose passion has always been to help people. Read his thought piece below about exercising to combat depression.

According to the World Health Organization, there are an estimated 300 million people from different age groups who are suffering from depression. While depression has been found to be common, the stigma of mental disorders has prohibited the public discourse in general from becoming more supportive and compassionate towards those who suffer from it. This is where exercise may provide the biggest benefit to those who are depressed—by providing them with a way to cope with and ward off the feelings of depression.

Many people swear by the beneficial effects of exercising in terms of helping with depression and fortunately, there is no shortage of studies and research that delve deeper into this subject. In one study published at Cochrane Library, researchers Cooney, Dwan, Greig et al. found that exercising to combat depression is more effective for patients compared to receiving no therapy at all; notably, with reducing symptoms. Even though the researchers’ work noted that exercise was no more effective than other psychological therapies, their findings nonetheless point in the right direction—confirming anecdotal evidence and what people have long experienced firsthand, that exercise for depression works.

Understanding the psychological benefits of exercise doesn’t require a degree in rocket science. In a nutshell, whenever you exercise, your body releases chemicals that can ultimately affect your mood. You may be familiar with endorphins—it’s that euphoric high you get after running a 5K, for instance. It’s interesting to note that the release of endorphins in the body feels similar to that of getting a shot of morphine, which may partly explain why people look forward to “feeling good” after a workout. However, the two chemicals have different long-term effects. Endorphins won’t lead you down a path towards a debilitating addiction.

Aside from releasing endorphins, exercising can also lower blood pressure and protect against heart disease and cancer. This is based on a special health report done by the Harvard Medical School Health Publications. According to the study, a half-an-hour to an hour’s exercise on most, if not all, days of the week should be helpful for sufferers. To us trainers, squeezing some time for exercise is always a good idea, but at the same time, we haven’t forgotten that a good majority of people who wish to have a healthy active lifestyle struggle to make good on this promise on a daily basis. This is why, both as a trainer and someone who advocates a healthy lifestyle, I hope my blog can inspire others to get up from the couch and start moving, pronto. For those who are depressed, know that showing up is half the battle. Every day you go for a brisk walk or a short jog is a day you beat depression and win.

To read more from Peter Benedict St. Andrew’s College grad, stay tuned to this blog.


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