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Research Finds Exercise Has Positive Effects on Mental Health

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A couple running outdoorsWhen it comes to treating depression, treatment is tailored to each patients needs and can include psychotherapy and medication.  Exercise has been shown to be a great adjunct in prevention and treatment of depression.

Whether you suffer from the occasional bout of the blues or full-blown depression, medical treatment is often necessary to help stabilize your emotions and get you back on track. But that doesn't mean medication is your only option.

Exercise and Mental Health
Studies have found that regular exercise can help improve mental health. It can help manage the symptoms of depression, as well as anxiety and low self-esteem. Regular exercise can also help in overcoming addictions and controlling weight.

And unlike some treatment plans, exercise does not have to be a strict regimen. Any type of exercise is beneficial for mental and physical health, so take part in activities you enjoy. Go for a swim, take a dance class, practice yoga, run or go for a long walk. As long as you are moving, your mind and body are feeling the effects.

The Cooper Institute has performed extensive research from its database of more than 100,000 Cooper Clinic patients to determine the impact of exercise on the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The research showed two basic things: that exercise can be effective in treating and preventing mild to moderate depression, and that effectiveness grows stronger the more you exercise.

"People who were fitter had less depressive symptoms and better emotional well-being," says Laura DeFina, MD, Medical Director of Research at The Cooper Institute. “Additional research showed that people who were fitter over time develop less depression as well."

Researchers learned that the more exercise, the better. People who habitually exercise showed the best results.

Not only can exercise immediately help to improve symptoms of depression and feelings of anxiety, but it also appears to offer long-term effects.

“Exercise can be helpful in treating depression symptoms along with medication,” says Dr. DeFina. It can also be beneficial if medicines have not worked completely by improving people's perception of quality of life. “For people who are not depressed, our literature has suggested that they have greater emotional well-being from being fit or fitter."

The Mystery of Exercise
What researchers don't exactly understand yet is why exercise helps battle depression, and how it affects the brain and body.

"There are a lot of theories about how chemically it happens," says Dr. DeFina. "We have shown in a variety of ways that exercise is good for you—now we are working toward the why."

For more information about The Cooper Institute, click here or call 972.341.3200.

Article provided by Cooper Aerobics Marketing and Communications.