We know that exercise is one of the best ways to improve overall metabolism. But how often do we hear about exercise enhancing overall brain function and helping to alleviate depression, one of the most common disorders of our time? The answer is not nearly often enough.
The truth is that regular exercise may be one of the best ways to enhance powerful mood-lifting brain chemicals that may work as natural antidepressants.
Try Nature’s Antidepressant
In 1999, researchers at Duke University Medical Center showed that exercise can be just as effective as prescribed medication in reducing symptoms of major depression. The study, which appeared in the Archives of Internal Medicine, involved 156 elderly patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Participants were assigned to three separate groups: Group 1 exercised but took no antidepressants; Group 2 took antidepressants with no exercise; and Group 3 took antidepressants combined with exercise.
Following the 16-week trial, researchers found that all three groups showed remarkably similar improvements in their depressive states. Researchers concluded that exercise should be considered a viable alternative to medication when it comes to depression.
First, Though, Believe in Yourself
For years scientists have been trying to figure out exactly what it is about regular exercise that triggers so many beneficial reactions in the body and mind. It turns out that some of the most powerful benefits of exercise may actually come from how exercise affects our self-confidence. Researchers from the University of Illinois have discovered that people with stronger self-beliefs are more likely to feel the emotional benefits from regular exercise. People who believe they are incapable of exercising may feel they get tired too soon and drop out of an exercise program, while those with a higher belief system actually feel great about the experience.
Lack of self-confidence may be one of the top reasons why so many people (yes, even those with the greatest of intentions) quit working out soon after beginning an exercise program. One researcher from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis set out to discover the main reasons for exercise dropout. Questioning 364 women age 55 and older after they finished their exercise programs, Joanne Schneider, RN, PhD, discovered that those who stayed positive by believing in the health benefits of working out tended to exercise more often, more intensely, or for longer periods of time than those with negative mindsets. Those who worried about how they looked while exercising reported
exercising less often, less intensely, or for shorter periods of time than those who cared less.