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Exercise can ease anxiety and depression

Jan 17, 2015
written by: Catherine Cameron
written by: Catherine Cameron
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If you suffer from anxiety or depression, or know someone who does, here’s some encouraging news. Growing evidence suggests exercise is an effective form of treatment for anxiety disorders and mild-to-moderate depression: have a look at this abstract from George Mammen, MSc and Guy Faulkner, PhD, titled Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression which implies even low levels of exercise can counter depression.

How does exercise help those with anxiety and depression? Experts believe it works by releasing feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins); by reducing immune system chemicals that exacerbate depression; and by increasing body temperature, which can provide a calming effect. A study by Dr. Andrea Dunn at the Cooper Research Institute in Dallas, Texas, found patients who did the equivalent of 35 minutes’ walking, six days per week, experienced a 47 percent reduction in their levels of depression. The study also implies that as few as three hours of exercise each week can reduce the symptoms of mild to moderate depression as well as some medications.

With one in five Canadians expected to experience a mental illness, it’s encouraging to have another treatment option available that can be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.

Interesting facts:

·         For maximum psychological benefits, exercise intensities of between 30% and 70% of a participant’s maximal heart rate appear to be most effective – think tennis!  Anaerobic exercise (such as weight training) also shows benefits.

·         The World Health Organization (1999) estimates that by 2020, depression will surpass cancer as the world’s second leading cause of disability and death.

·         Reductions in anxiety levels are likely to rebound to previous levels within 24 hours, suggesting a commitment to exercise should be regular and long term (as it should be for all Canadians).

·         In a review of 79 studies (2000), almost 80% of new-to-exercise participants reported significant gains in self-worth and other physical self-perceptions after exercise participation.

Improve your physical and mental health with a commitment to regular exercise! Are you a firm believer in the power of exercise? Tell us more @Tennis_Canada and @Cate_Cameron. Let’s inspire every Canadian to make 2015 their most active year yet!