Exercise vs Depression.

There are a number of positive spin offs for people who exercise when it comes to good mental health. Let’s unpack some of these.  good mental health

  1. Exercise releases some really cool chemicals into your brain. When you exercise your brain releases natural pain killers called Endorphins and Enkephalines . They are close in their structure to Morphine and give you a high. Runners were the first to name this, as the “runners high”. Some runners will tell you that they were battling along and suddenly got into a rhythm and the miles just went pleasantly by. Others will describe a deep sense of peace after a workout. These chemicals are produced in the brain and thus will not harm you in any way.

  2. You will gain a sense of mastery. Even the very best of us procrastinate. We find excuses not to exercise, fill out our tax forms or tidy our belongings. Picture the scene: your alarm clock goes, your running kit lies near your bed. A thought goes through your mind, “Maybe I should give this a skip”. However you manage to find your mojo and up you get and moments later you are out the door and on the road. As you get home you fill your run details in your diary, so many k’s done in so many minutes. You conquered the first part of the day while millions of other people hit their snooze buttons. You became master of your morning. There is a good chance that this flow will continue through the rest of your day.

  3. You get a chance to burn through some adrenaline by exercising. You have two adrenal glands that sit just above your kidneys. These two sacks contain a potion similar to the one that Obelix fell into as a child. A good squirt of adrenaline will enable you to fight off a bear and do other similar heroic deeds. All you need to get some of this juice swimming around your system is a bit of stress.

Adrenaline does the following:

  • It dilates your pupils allowing you to see your threat more clearly.
  • It stops blood from flowing to some of your internal organs and allows more blood to flow to your muscles. This allows you to move into your fight or flight mode.
  • Your heart and breathing rate rise, allowing your body to circulate oxygen rich blood through your system; this in turn allows your muscles to work hard and to ultimately kill the bear.

Here is the problem. Our ancient cave dwelling, bear killing brothers and sisters were able to deplete their bodies of adrenaline by the physical exertion of killing the bear. We no longer have bears running around, however people still face similar levels of stress. This hits us via the news, grumpy bosses, impossible deadlines, the idiot who almost wiped you out as you sat innocently in your car- the list goes on and on and on. The problem with all these stressors is that they hit us when we are sitting down. The adrenal glands still squirt, but until you find a physical way of getting rid of the juice you are going to be a nervous wreck. Going for yourrun endorphins swim, bike or run will help get rid of your adrenaline and thus make you feel better.

  1. There was a fascinating study done with a group of people suffering from depression. Researchers took a group of people suffering from depression and split them into three groups.

Group 1 were given anti-depressants.

Group 2 were given anti-depressants and put on a light exercise program.

Group 3 were put on a light exercise program – 45 minutes 3 x per week.

After 4 months all groups experienced similar levels of increased happiness. Exercise proved to be as effective as anti-depressants.

6 months later the people on the program were re assessed.

Group 1 – those on antidepressants alone – 38% had slipped back into depression.
Group 2 – those on both meds and exercise – 31% has slipped back into depression.
Group 3 – those on an exercise program – only 9% had slipped back into depression.

You can read more about the study – http://today.duke.edu/2000/09/exercise922.html

So now it’s up to you. You don’t ever get time to exercise, you make time to exercise. Pull your diary out and now book some sessions for the week. You will be so glad you did.


Mike Roscoe.
Mike Roscoe

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3 Responses to Exercise vs Depression.

  1. Topaz says:

    Great article. My psychiatrist says that my meds will work better in my system if I exercise, so I’ve been taking long walks in the evenings. Pretty soon I’d like to step it up and start jogging.

  2. Pingback: Winter does not mean that you should stop training. | SBR Sport Swim-Bike-Run

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