Can exercise really help us beat the blues?
I came across an interesting article on one of my favorite Danish news sites Fri.dk called “Can exercise prevent depression”?
A research study done by The Danish National Institute of Public Health points out that exercise can have an effective preventive effect on depression.
There is no doubt that exercise can help us when we are feeling the blues, but prevent depression? This is what the article said:
4 hours light exercise or 2 hours hard exercise a week
The Danish study confirms what we already know, that exercise is good for us physically, and that exercise plays a major role in our emotional health, but it also showed that exercise may have a preventive effect on depression!
The research was done with 18.000 Danes between 18-99 years of age, both answering questions sheets and undergoing blood tests during a 26 year period.
The results showed that, especially in women, there was a preventive effect in the occurrence of depression, by doing regular exercise.
Women who were either physical inactive or exercised less than 2 hours had 1.8 times higher risk of developing depression than the women who were exercising a lot. The “exercising a lot” criteria in the study was, light exercise more than 4 hours or more than 2 hours heavy exercise a week.
The research points (not surprisingly) to have the same beneficial effect for men, but then there was not as many depressive men participating in the study.
The research discussed whether it is simply exercise that has a preventive effect. They, therefore, also studied people who were physically active during their work day, for example in the postal services, but the research clearly showed that the physical exercise has to be done in free time. Work related “exercise” had no effect on depression! So something points to the fact that it is not the physical activity in itself that has the effect, it is important that it is part of free time and maybe there also is a social component.
I think this affirms that health does not happen in isolation – balanced living and happy health – means many things, among them are: getting regular exercise, nourishing our bodies with good food, embracing (all) emotions, having healthy relationships at work and privately, etc. And remember, depression can be a healthy response to something not right in our lives. No matter how much we run, we still need to attend to the underlying emotions and consult our heart – the old saying is true, we cannot run from our problems.
“Being entirely honest with oneself is good exercise”- Sigmund Freud
I think the social component in exercise plays a big and important role in preventing depression. We get out, we meet people and often we have great conversation during exercise, we solve the worlds problems as we go. We connect in a special way with people we exercise with. We set goals together, we sweat together, we laugh and cry together, we stretch ourselves together, we go beyond, we celebrate successes and support each other, we encourage each other, we share together. These aspects have the power to heal us, make us feel better, and prevent depression from occurring.
“The greatest wealth is health “ – Virgil
“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health” – Hippocrates
Earlier blog posts on exercise: