Fitness Fighting Depression

Depression is a word used a lot these days, and it's great that people feel that they can come out and talk about their problems, but what isn't great is the £266.6 million the NHS spent on anti-depressants in 2016. It's shocking I know, but with very few other proven ways to treat mental illnesses it means that we're spending more on suppressing the symptoms and less getting to the root cause of the problem. But hey, what about exercise as a possible part of a solution? 

Depressive disorders are mainly characterised by a depletion of glutamate and GABA, these are two neurotransmitters in the brain, however when the levels of these neurotransmitters return to normal it shows signs of health being restored. A study found a correlation between the resting levels of glutamate and the amount of exercise people were doing, therefore this could suggest that by exercising, you are raising the levels of glutamate in the body and helping to fight depression. Exercise activates metabolic pathways that replenish these neurotransmitters, in fact, vigorous exercise is the best thing you can do for the brain metabolically, it works harder than when you're playing chess or solving a puzzle. 

But it's not just about the science it's also about how exercise makes us feel. We've all had that feeling of pure relief but also happiness after a tough exercise session. Sure during it you wanted to face plant the floor, but there is no better feeling than knowing you've achieved something, whether it be beating your personal best or just getting to the gym 3 times a week. The University of Michigan created a study of 295 patients who were receiving a treatment at a mental health clinic and 85% wanted to do more exercise, with 80% saying that exercise improved their mood. But it doesn't have to be intense and vigorous exercise, several studies have found that exercising outdoors is associated with better wellbeing, increased energy and decreases tension, confusion, anger and depression. 

But what can be done about this? If you're in a low state of mind it can be very difficult to force yourself to take part in physical exercise, and this is exactly why baby steps are needed. For example, walking 10 minutes extra a day, or stretching for 10 minutes every morning and evening, if you want to throw yourself into it then that's great but if not it's better to take things nice and slow. 

And where could the health care system potentially improve? Referring patients to specialist Personal Trainers that will help them to overcome their mental and physical barriers. Of course a psychiatrist can help, but what if they were able to send clients to fitness professional and put this science into practice? It may not be the answer to fighting depression but it sure isn't a bad place to start. 

Eryn x 


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