Friday, September 9, 2011

The powerful role of exercise for easing depression

If only doctors gave out "prescriptions" for exercise as easily as they do drugs. And if only most of us could be relied upon to actually "fill" that prescription and adopt a regular program of vigorous physical activity. There's another good reason to take that advice seriously: A study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found that moving your body is particularly effective when it comes to treating major depression that's not getting any better with drugs.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi of the division of mood disorders at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in Dallas, devised a study to test whether aerobic exercise worked as an additional treatment (the study participants still received their SSRI antidepressant medications) to ease major depression in people who weren't seeing much benefit from the drugs. The 126 participants worked out regularly at the famous Cooper Institute (birthplace of aerobics) in Dallas and at home for 12 weeks, and the researchers looked to see if they felt any better at the end of that time. Their findings? "Significant improvements," wrote the study authors - and the more exercise the participants did, the better, especially for men and for women with no family history of mental illness.

The takeaway is pretty simple, right? Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program, and if you get the green light to proceed, check out these guidelines for getting started from the Centers for Disease Control. You can use the Tonic Self-Care App to track your workouts and your mood, as well as a a wide variety of other aspects of your health and wellness, too.

Do you use exercise to improve your mood? Tell us how you fit in your workouts and what keeps you motivated and on track.

--Lorie A. Parch

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