While an apple a day may (or may not) keep the doctor away, a growing body of research indicates that exercise may keep the psychologist away. Alessandra Pilu of the University of Cagliari in Italy and other investigators reported their conclusions in the online journal of Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health.
“The study found that depressed women who started a supervised exercise regimen had significant improvements in their symptoms over the next 8 months. Those who didn’t exercise showed only marginal improvements.
“Before the study, all of the women had tried taking antidepressant medication for at least two months but had failed to improve.
“A number of studies have found that physically active people are less likely than couch potatoes to suffer depression. Some clinical trials have shown regular exercise can help treat the disorder, and perhaps be as effective as antidepressant drugs in some cases.
“The new findings suggest that exercise can even help people whose symptoms have been resistant to medication, according to the study authors.”
Since an estimated two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, high rates of mental illness shouldn’t surprise us. Mental illness is not just mental. We are integrated, living souls, and approaches must be holistic, treating mind, body, and spirit.
(And of course some people are overweight because of factors beyond their control, such as their genetics. Even exercise doesn’t make them slim. But for many folks, the combination of too many calories in and not enough calories burned produces a weight problem.)
Perhaps being overweight is a largely unexplored factor in the epidemic of depression afflicting children and teens in the United States. Observers say that about 5 percent of adolescents suffer from clinical depression, and suicide is said to be the third-leading cause of death among teenagers.
Combine those figures with statistics from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of overweight children has tripled in just 30 years, with 12.5 million teens considered overweight, and you’ll see how significant the problem is. No wonder the Ad Council and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services launched a $324 million ad campaign aimed at stopping obesity.
So if you’re feeling down, depressed, or blue, turn off the TV, computer, or video game, get off the couch, and take a hike. Exercise will not solve all your problems, of course (and you may need to check with your doctor first). But for a healthier and happier you, it may be a great place place to start.
Hat tip: Christine Guthrie