16 Feb Walk it Off
Depression is one of the most common and prevalent mental health problems in the United States. According to a 2015 study from the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 16.1 million adults experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. That’s 6.7% of all American aged 18 or older.
Drug-Free Treatment Options
Thankfully, there are numerous treatment options available to those who suffer the –debilitating health effects of depression, such as weight problems, a weakened immune system and hypersensitivity to pain. These treatments include psychotherapy (counseling) and prescription pharmacueticals (such as anti-depressants and mood stabilizers).
There’s also an uptick in the number of drug-free treatment options, and doctors are prescribing exercise to combat depression.
Regular physical activity can, for some, be just as effective as anti-depressants, and in many cases, the long-term positive effects of exercise last much longer than the effects of medications.
Exercise Boosts Production of Feel-Good Chemicals
Physical activity promotes the release of endorphins—naturally occurring painkillers that help maintain good health and, quite simply, make you happy. By decreasing tension in the body, endorphins offset the negative impact of stress, anxiety and depression, leading to better and more prolonged sleep, improved cognitive functioning and—quite simply!—a positive, upbeat outlook.
In addition to increasing endorphins, exercise has been positively linked to an increase in serotonin, an anti-depressive neurotransmitter that is found throughout the central nervous system. Many drugs used to treat depression are designed to improve serotonin uptake within the body, making exercising a viable drug-free alternative for many people who might otherwise require prescription medications to manage mild to moderate bouts of depression.
Walk Your Way to Wellness
Might it be as simple as taking a stroll? Yup, according to many experts. A brisk, 35-minute walk, five times per week, provides ample ammo in your fight against depression. If your schedule can’t manage five days a week—and you yet mastered the ninja workout routine—60 minute walks, three times per week, had the same positive impact.
Of course, if walking doesn’t strike your fancy, any kind of exercise will do, including team sports, cycling, jogging, even dancing! As long as the exercise is done for at least 150 minutes per week, you’ll enjoy noticeable changes.
If you are suffering from depression, talk with your primary health care provider about your treatment options. Remember that while prescription medications are effective and even necessary for some individuals, all-natural, drug-free exercise can be a valid alternative.