The Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has been proposed as a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression. Exercise may be particularly beneficial for individuals with depression because it can help lower the risk for poor health outcomes (e.g., heart failure, obesity, stroke) related to unbalanced sleep, eating difficulties, and lack of physical activity (Lopresti et al., 2013). Specifically, research suggests that engaging in supervised aerobic exercise (e.g., running on a treadmill, going on an elliptical, walking outside) at a moderate intensity three times per week for at least nine weeks significantly improves depressive symptoms (Stanton & Rearburn, 2014). Additionally, Dunn et al. (2005) found that the greater the intensity of exercise, the larger the reduction in depressive symptoms. Exercise has also been found to improve mood and functioning (in conjunction with medication) in individuals who have not improved from other treatments (Eyre & Baune, 2012; Mota-Pereira et al., 2011). Exercise may reduce depressive symptoms by decreasing the biological impact of stress on the body and brain (e.g., via reduced inflammation; Eyre & Baune, 2012). Furthermore, research has found that exercise may help prevent depression (Martinsen, 2008).

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