MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH MONTH! Exercise and Be Happy!
TCMC Medical Contributor: Steven Kafrissen, MD, is a psychiatrist at Community Counseling Services and an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.
This column is a special feature the third Monday of every month of Health & Exercise Forum in cooperation with The Commonwealth Medical College.
Living in a region of the country that has a 50-percent chance of sunshine is not for the faint at heart! It can certainly affect one’s mood. However, there is something you can do about it…exercise! Studies show that one of the most understated benefits of exercise is mental health. Specifically, exercise that is aerobic (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more), such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking or using an elliptical or stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to the “runner’s high.” This exercise euphoria is not limited to runners alone, but all who engage in aerobic exercise are more likely to experience high energy, positive attitude and mental wellness.
Physical activity, specifically aerobic exercise, is a scientifically proven, useful tool for preventing and easing depression symptoms. Studies in the British Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Exercise and Sports Science found that depression scores were significantly reduced in groups that engaged in aerobic running, jogging or walking programs, 30-45 minutes three to five days per week for 10 to 12 weeks, when compared to a control group and a psychotherapy counseling group.
Depression is the most common mental disorder and is twice as common among women as in men. Symptoms include: fatigue, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, decreased sexual interest, weight change and constipation. Many of these symptoms are likely to bring an individual to his or her family physician. Unfortunately, depression is on the increase in the United States. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in the 1990s, 7 million visits to a primary care physician were for the treatment of depression. Ten years later, the number doubled.
In addition to exercise, patients and their loved ones should remember they can call Helpline (888-829-1341 or 570-829-1341 or text your zip code to 898211) or a crisis service for any suicidal ideas (570-348-6100 in Lackawanna County and 570-552-6000 in Luzerne). Also, be aware that mental health centers are available (Scranton Counseling Center, Community Counseling Center, Northeast Counseling Services and other community and private mental-health providers).
According to medical literature, exercise reduces depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically).
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Read “Health & Exercise Forum” by Dr. Mackarey every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College