Exercise to Reduce Depression?

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I have long believed that our overall health is influenced 50% by genetics (what we inherited from our parents), 25% by environmental (pollutants, allergens, toxic compounds in the everyday objects we are surrounded by), and 25% we have control over (through exercise, nutrition and lifestyle choices).

Being a lifelong exerciser will have a drastically positive effect on our overall health, how long we live, and the quality of our lives. Exercise has been called the only miracle pill we have. Exercise and eating right are the best ways to take control of your health and positively influence it. I feel that if we are in control of only 25% of our overall health, then I want to positively influence that 25%.

Exercise has been proven to decrease rates of heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. It prevents weight gain and obesity. It helps to control arthritis and joint pain.

Among the myriad of health benefits of exercise, a specific type of exercise has been proven effective in treating depression.

I feel that almost any type of exercise is an effective treatment for depression. Using your body can make you feel like a kid again. It is hard to be in a bad mood when you are biking or hiking or walking outdoors on a beautiful day. And nothing beats the feeling after you are done exercising. The feeling of having used your body, and the feeling of fatigue, that you earned, is a great feeling. Exercise causes the release of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. Endorphins are such an effective mood elevator that a person can become depressed when deprived of endorphins.

I have witnessed firsthand people going through a depression when deprived of exercise. A good friend of mine was an avid exerciser. She competed in, and completed, multiple Primal Quest Endurance Races. The Primal Quest is touted as the toughest endurance race in the world. It regularly takes competitors 7 to 10 days of consecutive racing to complete one race. It consists of hiking, running, mountain biking, mountain climbing, rappelling, white water rafting, and orienteering, to name a few of the sports they compete in.

This friend of mine was training for this race and she tore her ACL. The ACL is a ligament in the knee that provides support. If you are not a professional athlete then chances are you do not need to get it surgically repaired if torn. But if you are a professional athlete, then you should get it repaired if torn.

This friend of mine got hers repaired at the beginning of the summer and had to spend the rest of the summer doing rehab and healing her knee. She got very depressed by the end of the summer. She was used to feeling good because she always had endorphins going through her body. Her extreme exercise routine caused the regular and consistent release of the endorphins in her body. When she was deprived of exercise, her body stopped producing as many endorphins. Without the endorphins, she became depressed.

With this in mind, it piqued my curiosity when I read that yoga is now being looked at as a treatment for yoga. I love yoga. I think that most people would benefit from doing yoga. Most people should do yoga, Ti Chi or pilates, in my opinion.

Yoga is one of the best ways to maintain flexibility and strength as we age. As we get older, our muscles get tighter and tighter from the repetitive motions that we perform throughout the day, each and every day, week in and week out, for years on end. Everyone has repetitive motions. It is these repetitive motions that we do consistently on a daily basis (pick up clothes off the floor, lean over the sink to do dishes, sit at a desk and type on a computer, read briefs, golf, etc) that slowly cause muscles to get overused. As they get overused, they slowly become tighter  and tighter and more and more irritated until they tear on a microscopic level and become sprained or strained. That is when you become aware of the irritation.

Yoga helps to prevent the muscles from getting so tight to the point of tearing. If you can loosen the muscles up on a regular basis, you can actually prevent injury. You will also prevent arthritic joints from progressing and getting worse. Yoga can even prevent arthritis from coming up in the first place.

We all see people who have lost range of motion. Maybe they can’t get out of a chair without groaning or making OPS (Old People Sounds). Maybe they can’t turn and look over their shoulder. Maybe they can’t reach overhead to grab something in a high cupboard. Maybe they can’t reach behind their back to put on a shirt or coat or to fasten a bra strap.

They didn’t get that way over night. It was a long process of the muscles getting tighter and tighter, and probably a few repeated tweaks, sprains or injuries over years. Now they can’t take that joint through its’ full range of motion. Unless they are actively stretching and working on it, then chances are they are still losing range of motion now.

But if they had been regularly stretching or doing yoga, they would have maintained that range of motion and not lost it. Even if someone has arthritis and joint pain, yoga and regular stretching can prevent the progression of the joint degeneration and the loss of more range of motion.

At the very least, yoga and exercise will help you to maintain where you are it. It will prevent losing more strength and losing more range of motion. Which is important because everyone will lose range of motion and strength as we age, unless we are proactive and do something about it. Not to mention that regular exercise can also elevate your mood and replace anti-depressants. Anti-depressants are vastly over diagnosed, and extremely hard to get off of.

Anti-depressants can also have a multitude of side effects. They can be very hard to get off of. I have had many patients try to get off of these anti-depressants only to encounter horrible side effects that makes them stay on the medication because it is too hard to get off of.

During the withdrawal process some of my patients have said to me that they feel like the drug companies intentionally designed the drugs to make them addictive and hard to get off of. I have had patients cut certain pills in half so they could decrease their intake and try to get off of it. I have seen patients who get anxiety, vertigo, tinnitus, shakes, feelings of bugs crawling on their skin, or many other withdrawal effects while trying to get off of these drugs.

I’d rather do yoga a few days week than chance getting addicted to an anti-depressant and not be able to get off of it when I want to. Not to mention the fact that a naturally elevated mood will be elevated longer and will make you happier overall. Rather than raising your mood through introducing artificially created chemicals into your body.

Dr. P. Murali Doraiswamy, professor of psychiatry and medicine at Duke University Medical Center, is one of three authors of a recent review of studies on yoga, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Dr. Doraiswamy and his colleagues sorted through more than 100 studies on yoga and its’ effects on major psychiatric disorders. The researchers found that yoga can beneficially effect issues ranging from sleep complaints to ADHD, and schizophrenia to depression.

The researchers found that the practice of yoga may have similar effects on the human body as anti-depressants and psychotherapy do. One study found that yoga can boost serotonin levels. Yoga can also reduce inflammation, reduce oxidative stress from free radicals, and can exert a positive influence on mental health.

Dr. Doraiswamy said that there are 30 to 50 million Americans taking psychiatric medicine. In one study by the National Institute of Mental Health, one third of patients taking anti-depressants actually became symptom free.

Dr. Doraiswamy went on to say that we as a nation are becoming more dependent on pills. But pills don’t prevent psychiatric illness. Pills don’t build resiliency, and they don’t teach coping mechanisms.

There certainly are some situations where pills and anti-depressants are needed, and are useful. I feel that they should be used as a last resort. I feel that too many people just want to take a pill and never have to worry about their illness again. It just never works like that. Maybe less than 50% of all the people taking the pill actually get some relief. Maybe the pill has side effects that are wrose than the actual illness you are taking the pill for in the first place.

Side effects from pills have become a huge issue lately. Many health websites have entire sections devoted to dealing with side effects from drugs.

Exercise and eating right is much easier on your body than drugs are. It does take more work, but the effects are better and longer lasting. The effects will last as long as you continue to take care of yourself and exercise and eat right. And exercise and eating right are free.

Eating right does cost more than eating highly processed and calorie dense foods, but it will be cheaper in the long run when you don’t have to pay for as many medical bills.

Joining a gym can cost money, which is why I set up Pain Free Lifestyle to be done at home. And you can get the equipment you’ll need for a full body workout for less than the price of joining a gym for 1 month.

Not relying on doctors and taking control of your health is priceless.

Exercising and eating right to control your health and pain is the only way to keep yourself active and feeling good as you age. It is the best way to keep your medical bills low, and your insurance premiums even lower. It is the Pain Free Way.

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