What types of activity are right?
Physical activity is very useful in helping to prevent as well as easing the symptoms of depression. Getting started on an exercise program when suffering from depression can be hard due to the feelings of hopelessness and fatigue that accompany this disorder can make physical exertion difficult, and some patients are vulnerable to guilt and self-blame if they fail to carry out a regimen. Finding activities and exercise programs that are pleasurable give the participant the best chance for success. Walking--alone or in a group--is often a good place to start.(2)
Exercise may help to improve one's mood through a number of different factors. Exercise can help to raise a persons self confidence simply through the act of fulfilling personal goals. The act of getting out and exercising can help to divert a person's mind away from whatever may be bothering them at the time. This may also function in helping to release bottled up frustration and anger.
In addition, improving one's health, physique, flexibility, and weight may all enhance mood. Many exercisers report that their ability to eat more freely without worries about gaining weight also increases pleasure, satisfaction, and a sense of self-control.(2)
Exercising can take many different forms. Anyone can choose to engage in such activities as weight training, cardiovascular training such as jogging and swimming, or even engaging in recreational activities, for example; a co-ed softball or basketball league.
There have been many studies that have examined the effect of exercise on mental health and have found very promising results. (See reference page) Studies have been published comparing the effects of aerobic versus non-aerobic exercise and their effects on depression.(6,11) A study examining the effects of Yoga on improving the mood in a person suffering from depression showed that Yoga does in fact help to improve a person's mood, in a number of different ways including an improved sense of mastery when perfecting a particular movement.(35)
While weight training or aerobic exercise may be very beneficial for mental and physical well being, if not enjoyed, participation is less likely to persist. Increasing activity levels simply by walking or riding a bike to certain locations throughout the day is another good way to start getting active. However deciding to start, staying with the activities will have the greatest long term benefits.
Older Adults: Depression in older adults can be treated safely and effectively with progressive resistance training.
A does-response relationship exists between exercise and depression reduction in older adults. Specifically, high intensity progressive resistance training has a greater effect on treating depression than low intensity progressive resistance training.