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Since 1949 May has been designated as National Mental Health Month for the purpose of eliminating the stigma associated with mental illness by raising awareness. One of the most common mental health conditions is depression. New research from Boston University School of Public Health has found that depression has been increasing in the United States and life with COVID for more than two years has accelerated it rapidly. In 2021 the number of people suffering from depression increased more than 32 percent, affecting 1 in every 3 American adults. However, research also has good news to offer: one of the most understated benefits of exercise is mental health! Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “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 3-5 days per week for 10-12 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 their family physician.

HOW EXERCISE REDUCES DEPRESSION

According to research, exercise reduces depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically). 

Psychological or Mental Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

Physiological or Physical Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

HOW TO BEGIN EXERCISE FOR DEPRESSION

Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.

Exercise and be Happy!

Part II of II

Last week in Part I on Depression I discussed the importance of laughter for the prevention of depression. In this column, I will discuss one of the most understated benefits of exercise – mental health! Specifically, aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate for 30 minutes or more) such as walking, biking, running, swimming, hiking, elliptical & stepper machines to name a few, is the secret to “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 3-5 days per week for 10-12 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 their family physician. Unfortunately, depression is on the increase in the United States. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in the early 2000’s, 7 million visits to a primary care physician were for the treatment of depression. 10 years later the number doubled.

HOW EXERCISE REDUCES DEPRESSION

            According to research reported in The Physical and Sportsmedicine, exercise reduces depression in two ways, psychologically (mentally) and physiological (physically). 

Psychological or Mental Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

Physiological or Physical Benefits of Exercise on Depression:

HOW TO BEGIN EXERCISE FOR DEPRESSION

Work hard to recognize and overcome these symptoms to begin an exercise program. An aerobic exercise routine should eventually lessen these symptoms.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday

Access all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in the Health and Exercise Forum at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

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: drpmackarey@msn.com

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 in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.

Laugh and Walk Your Way to Happiness!

Part I of II

It has been 9 long months living with COVID 19! Most of us are weary and tired of social distancing, wearing masks, visiting with family from a distance or virtually. We miss the hugs and kisses of our family and friends. While it is critically important that we continue to stay vigilant, with no end in sight people are beginning to get “the COVID BLUES.” It only takes a few other problems like stress at work and health issues to put you over the edge…

Depression is the most common mental disorder and is twice as common among women as in men. It impacts life in many ways; family, friends, work, play and general health. Symptoms include: fatigue, sleeplessness, decreased appetite, decreased sexual interest, weight change, and constipation. Many of these symptoms are likely to bring an individual to their family physician. Unfortunately, depression is on the increase in the United States. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, in the early 2000’s, 7 million visits to a primary care physician were for the treatment of depression. 10 years later the number doubled.

Recent research is very encouraging and supports the use of laughter and exercise to prevent and treat depression as a powerful adjunct to therapy and medication. While it is important to state that depression is no laughing matter, many mental health professionals support it as a method to confront an unpleasant situation and gain some level of control over it. One study showed that in elderly people who used humor on a regular basis, reported improved satisfaction in life as compared to their less humorous contemporaries.

4 Reasons Why Humor is Helpful in Battling Depression (based on recent studies)

1. Humor Demystifies Depression

Humor lets others know that you can be depressed and still be human…a productive and valuable member of society. For example, “I’m depressed but I am not a bad person and I can still be funny and fun to be around.”

2. Humor Improves Your Mood

Humor lightens temperament as it increases blood flow to the brain to release dopamine and endorphin, which are chemicals that improve mood.

3. Humor Relieves Stress

Humor increases chemicals in the brain that control the release of a stress release hormone called cortisol.

4. Humor Improves Self-Esteem

Telling a joke, being funny, and making others laugh, make YOU feel good about yourself…and feel more normal.

4 Tips to Improve Your Sense of Humor

1. Hang Around With Fun and Funny People

Whenever possible, try to associate with good people who “pick you up” and have good karma. Avoid people who are “downers” and tend to “such the oxygen” out of the room.

2. Listen to Jokes & Learn to Enjoy Them

While this may be difficult to do when your down, but it will go a long way to pick you up.

3. Learn to Tell a Joke

This is also not easy but very important to improve your sense of humor. It will help you rediscover your “inner child.” Ease into it and start slowly. Practice in front of a mirror in the privacy of your home. Begin using it on family and good friends.

4. Joke About Your Depression

It will be cathartic. For example, “oh my God, that would be so funny if I wasn’t depressed!” “Don’t tell my shrink I laughed so hard because he will take away my meds!” Don’t put yourself down, but laugh at yourself if you mess up telling a joke or trying to be funny. Then, try again.

Sources: LifeScript.com. If you or someone you know is in danger from depression contact the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention at 1-888-333-2377.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday. Or view all of Dr. Mackarey's articles in out Health and Exercise Forum at: https://mackareyphysicaltherapy.com/forum/

Next Week, Part II of II - Exercise to Prevent Depression.

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: drpmackarey@msn.com

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 in downtown Scranton and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at GCSOM.