Can Exercise Help Fight Depression?
There have been numerous research studies on whether exercise helps improve mood in people suffering from clinical depression. A review of these studies concludes that people with mild to moderate depression can find their mood improved with regular exercise.
Other studies have found that even patients with major depression can benefit from aerobic exercise. It also turns out that non-aerobic exercise including strength training, relaxation, coordination and flexibility training had a positive effect on study participants’ depression scores.
Depression affects nearly 10% of the U.S. adult population each year, so it’s good to know that exercise can be a possible alternative to medications for those who do not wish to treat their condition with antidepressants. Of course, it’s important to recognize that someone who is depressed may have difficulty staying motivated to exercise long enough to see the benefits.
If you have a client suffering from depression, here are some tips to keep in mind when designing an exercise program for them:
- Start small. Create attainable goals and help your client build on them over time. At first, it’s more important to get a routine going and choose an activity that will be easy to stick with. The ultimate goal should be 30 minutes to an hour of moderate exercise nearly every day. More exercise correlates with increased improvement in mood.
- Build in accountability. See about pairing your client with a friend or involving them in a group to help them keep going with their exercise regimen. If that’s not practical, perhaps you can be their accountability partner. Just make yourself available by phone or text to encourage them to keep up their workouts and motivate them on days when they’re not in the mood to exercise.
- Maximize the convenience factor. When you’re helping your client pick an activity, think about things they can do easily. Walking and running are natural choices because they can be done just about anywhere with minimal preparation. If your client is a dog owner, a daily dog walk could be just the ticket.
- Make it fun. Work with your client to find an activity he or she will genuinely enjoy. It might take some time to figure out what that is, but it will be worth it because they’ll be more likely to keep going with it.
As you know, the benefits of regular exercise go far beyond just those of mood. While your client is helping to relieve his or her depression, they are also helping to lower their blood pressure, improve their heart health and increase their energy levels. Anything you can do to facilitate all of those outcomes will be great for your clients.
Thank you so much for your prompt response. Might I add, Veronica was a delight to work with and her professionalism and attention to detail made this an overall pleasurable experience.