Have you ever felt sad or stressed, laced up your running shoes and went on a run to find yourself feeling happier once you got back? Anti-depressants might not be the best treatment for depression and anxiety, conditions that many Americans take drugs for. Psychology Professors Smits and Otto from Southern Methodist and Boston Universities have shown that Exercise Therapy is a successful treatment of many mental health problems.
Presenting their findings at the Anxiety Disorder Association of America’s annual conference in March to researchers and mental health care providers, Smits and Otto have found that people who exercise show fewer signs of depression and stress. Much like an anti-depressant, exercise triggers the release of neurotransmitters in the brain that help relieve stress and depression and allow patients to perform daily tasks more efficiently. Additionally, as one exercises more, resting heart rate lowers, causing patients to feel less anxiety.
Smits believes that patients should exercise at least 150 minutes a week at a moderate-intensity or 75 minutes at high-intensity. Exercise therapy is about the immediate benefits of exercise on mood, not just the long-term health benefits.
As the list of learned health benefits of exercise grows, psychiatrists should be encouraged to prescribe schedules and goals to exercise instead of anti-depressants for a less costly and more beneficial therapy for mood disorders. So, next time you’re stressed about work or academics or have a loss of confidence, get outside and exercise. It’s what the doctor ordered.
For more information, see links at SMU research