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Exercise found to be 1.5 times more effective than counseling or drugs in combatting depression

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Researchers at The University of South Australia are saying exercise should be standard in all approaches to managing depression. This is something we have always advocated at Inner Athlete Training.

Anyone who has ever been in the doldrums has experienced changes once the body starts moving. Long or short walks, rearranging items around the house, an afternoon of hiking or just doing some basic squats, push up, or stairs can bring peoples emotional levels from a 2-3 to at last a 5 or 6 or higher. . A recent study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine has recently completed the most comprehensive study to date on this topic involving 97 reviews, 1039 trials and 128, 119 participants in total. The study was led by Dr. Ben Singh who noted: "Physical activity must be prioritized to better manage the growing cases of mental illness." He went on to mention that "Physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement." The APA, (American Psychological Association) declared only as recently as 2010 that exercise should be an important part of every intervention dealing with depression. The Covid pandemic created an increase in mental health issues worldwide as a result of prolonged lockdowns and isolation. The World Health Organization recently determined a 25 percent increase in prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. (Link to study below) Despite all the evidence The WHO unfortunately did not recommend exercise as a possible remedy. The study also claims that shorter bursts of higher intensity exercise yielded the greatest results. This makes sense as one of the reasons exercise works is it pulls one out of the realm of the obsessing mind. When you are playing frisbee for example and reaching for the disk your mind is temporarily not engaged so much with the emotional issues you are dealing with. The intense physical activity is in effect providing your mind a brief respite of whatever is ailing it, often allowing enough time for your perspective to shift. Think of it as a temporary reboot. At Inner Athlete Training we know the body, mind, and spirit act as one, and are indeed one, even though they all possess a different faculty.

So, it makes perfect sense that a body in movement would light up a myriad of biochemical pathways that excite the body's various systems providing more energy and clarity. In addition the body releases endorphins which also provide "feel good" signals throughout the body often yielding the sought after runners high.

Tip #1 - Do it no matter what!

If you find yourself struggling to exercise in order to help alleviate emotional distress, then find a way to accomplish it regardless. Perhaps have a friend or family member hold you accountable and actually walk or exercise with you. Write it in your planner or calendar so it's on your to do list. Just be creative and find a way that works for you. Remember you may not enjoy the thought or even the execution of exercise, but when it's over you never regret it.

Tip #2 - Prepare for it

It's effective to prepare for your exercise in any number of ways. Lay out your shorts, T shirts and sneakers at the edge of the bed so they are ready to go in the morning. Have them waiting for you on the couch if you choose to exercise when you get home in the evening. Getting a gym membership also helps to prepare you as you are now paying for a service to assist you. Same with a personal trainer.

"Exercise is the most potent and underrated antidepressant" Bill Phillips

Tip #3 - Making it personal

My personal motivation in part stems from the years I spent training with the New York Road Runners Club in NYC. Specifically, the Achilles track club which sponsored runners who had some kind of disability. I remember watching them train and race vigorously while missing limbs, being blind or having some other type of challenge. I knew if they could get up every day without excuse and do it then so could I. I also exercise simply because I can, knowing full well there are many out there who for some reason or another cannot. Perhaps they are limited due a disease, severe disability or some other limitation. Many of these people would love to be outdoors in the sunshine doing some kind of training. I therefore look at every jog, pushup, visit to the gym or any other physical activity as nothing short of a blessing. Find your deeper reason or use mine in the meantime.

Tip #4 - Mix it up

Expose yourself to a variety of physical disciplines. The more the body is challenged in its movement patterns the better.

Tip #5 - Conclusion

In a nutshell just remember that the benefits of exercise far exceed the physical. The feeling of emotional calm and spiritual well-being are truly healing and now we know they are 1.5 x better than drugs and counseling. If you combine exercise with a prayer/meditative lifestyle you can save yourself some money in therapy sessions and end up with a banging healthy body you can feel proud about.

Next steps

Just get out there and do it! Follow our Inner Athlete Training Youtube and FB page for the latest information on health, wellness, and the mind body connection. Soon we'll be opening up our services to offer both online and in person Inner Athlete Training sessions for those who really wish to integrate the three pillars of movement, mediation and nutrition.

Link to the study from The World Health Organization / Link to The Who Study on Covid depression

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In Health and Wellness,

James Jankiewicz


Founder Inner Athlete Training

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Unknown member
Mar 04, 2023

Great info!

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