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It’s a vicious cycle. You want to exercise, but lack the motivation. Just getting to the gym sometimes feels impossible. You know it’s good for you, you’ve read the studies, but that’s just not enough to motivate you to go. Perhaps the reason you are still sitting on that couch watching T.V. is because you aren’t going to the gym in the first place.
Researchers at University College London (UCL) found a two-way relationship between depression and physical activity. They found that individuals who increased their weekly activity reported fewer depressive symptoms but those with more depressive symptoms were less active, particularly at younger ages. So it appears that there is a real “Catch-22” in regards to whether or not we exercise – If we exercised more we would be less likely to experience depression, but because we’re depressed we can’t summon up the effort to exercise.
The Beginning Of The Study
The study, published in JAMA Psychiatry and undertaken as part of the Public Health Research Consortium followed 11,135 people born in 1958 up through the age of 50. They noted depressive symptoms and levels of physical activity at regular intervals in adulthood. Apparently each additional activity session per week reduced the odds of depression by 6%. In England alone, 19% of men and 26% of women are currently classed as 'inactive', and this study suggests that activity could significantly improve not only their physical health but their mental health as well.
Dr. Snehal Pinto Pereira of the UCL Institute of Child Health, lead author of the study states, "Assuming the association is causal, leisure time physical activity has a protective effect against depression. If an adult between their twenties and forties who isn't physically active became active 3 times per week, they would reduce their risk of depression by approximately 16%." He further adds, "Importantly, this effect was seen across the whole population and not just in those at high risk of clinical depression. The more physically active people were, the fewer depressive symptoms they reported. Just as someone might be a little overweight but not clinically overweight or obese, many people who are not clinically depressed could still experience some depressive symptoms."
The relationship between activity and depressive symptoms was examined was evaluated in participants from the age of 23 up to the age of 50. Participants were assessed for psychological distress at ages 23, 33, 42, and 50, by completing a Malaise Inventory – a questionnaire used to evaluate their depressive symptoms. They were also asked how often they were physically active.
The study showed that people who reported more depressive symptoms at age 23 tended to be less physically active, suggesting the need for more aggressively encouraging young people to go out and get some exercise. "This finding is important for policies designed to get people more active, because it suggests that depressive symptoms could be considered a barrier to activity in young adulthood," says Dr. Pinto Pereira. By contrast, increasing the frequency of activity consistently reduced depressive symptoms across the entire age range. Previous studies investigating activity as a treatment for depression have produced mixed results, but this large longitudinal study suggests that exercise has an important role to play for mental health."
It further supports the need for programs like the National Football League’s Play-60. In conjunction with The American Heart Association, the NFL promoted this movement as an effort to fight childhood obesity by encouraging kids to get out and get active through in-school, afterschool, and team-based programs. The end result is the same – our children are out of the house and interacting with their peers.
Senior author Chris Power, Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at the UCL Institute of Child Health explains, "If everyone was physically active at least three times a week we would expect to see a drop in depression risk, not to mention the benefits for physical health, as pointed out by other research, including reduced obesity, heart disease and diabetes risk." He further outlined, "There is some evidence to suggest that activity can be used as a treatment for depression, but our study goes beyond examining the depressed group and suggests a benefit of activity to curb depressive symptoms in the general population."
Professor Mark Petticrew of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Director of the Public Health Research Consortium, explains that "Many people are already aware of the benefits of physical activity on their general health, but we are now seeing a growing body of evidence that suggests it also has a positive effect on a person's mental well-being. This latest research highlights just how important it is to ensure that people are working and living in environments that allow them to be both physically active and mentally healthy."
Conclusion: Physical activity may prevent the onset of depression and perhaps even serve as a treatment.
- Laura Wells
Many of us routinely make a resolution at the beginning of each year to exercise more, and the reasons for such goals are as varied as the number of people who make them. However, I believe that ‘to exercise more’ has to be one of the most, if not the most, popular resolutions. I believe that the majority of the world, but especially the majority of America, including me, really should exercise more and not only because of morbid obesity and certainly not because of vanity.
I am a goal-setter by nature. I set my goals and work earnestly to attain my goals. I was like many Americans and regularly set my ‘to exercise more’ goal or resolution. Year after year, I failed miserably. A fear of failure has almost always existed for me, so each time I failed at my ‘to exercise more’ resolution I failed and then took on the characteristic of failure. It was exclusively in my own mind, but isn’t that the most vicious place to live? I eventually stopped making resolutions because of these results.
People really do need to exercise more to remove the toxins of the body, mind, and soul. As a society we have seen the diagnosis of depression exponentially increase over the last 50 years. The reasons for the dramatic increase are numerous. In fact, I would need to take off my socks and shoes to count that high and would probably still need to do multiplication and nobody wants that. However, we can take a look at societal shifts in American culture over the last 50 years and find a few causes.
One example that comes to my mind is that in the past, most everyone, adults and children alike, spent more time outdoors and the seasons didn’t seem to matter.
As a kid I can remember it was as much fun to play outside in the snow, all bundled up, as it was to run around barefoot dodging the hot pavement on a summer day. I would go out to play soon after breakfast, slide through at lunch, slide through again at supper, and be threatened with corporal punishment to come in at nightfall. A few hours of sleep, an occasional bath, and get up and do it all over again.
The adults in my family would work in the garden so that we would have fresh vegetables. They spent time canning and preserving to assure that we would have vegetables in the wintertime. They would work on the lawn and landscaping and sit on the porch. In winter they would shovel snow, make snow cream, and plan for the spring.
Today, most parents are too afraid to let children out of their sight for more than a few minutes, much less most of a day. In many situations, rightfully so due to safety issues and litigious climates that now seem more prevalent. Instead of playing outside, it is playing video games, social networking, or the chief babysitter television, just now in high definition.
Parents work longer hours and don’t seem to have time to be parents. Gone seem to be the days of an 8-hour, 9 to 5, Monday thru Friday society, which allowed for, should I say expected, this precious commodity called ‘Quality Family Time.’
It is no surprise that depression is an epidemic today with our societal and cultural change over the past 100 years. In fact, I am getting a little sad just thinking about how great my childhood was and how blasé the childhood my kids are experiencing.