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Articulo Medico

Why does exercise help improve depression and anxiety?

“Exercise has great potential in the treatment of depression. There is no consensus on what is the most appropriate type or intensity, but it improves at all levels: it increases endorphin levels, improves self-esteem, planning, helps focus, improves mood, social contact … All these elements can favor the exit of depression and prevent a person from falling into it, ”admits Elisa Gallach, a clinical psychologist at Hospital la Fe. Something that already confirms the recent meta-analysis Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias, in the Journal of psychiatric research, which states that “physical activity has a large and significant antidepressant effect in people with depression … Our data strongly support the claim that exercise is an evidence-based treatment for the Depression” .

 According to data collected in the Mental Health Strategy of the National Health System, Spain is the European country with the highest rate of depressive symptoms in the elderly population. Between 8% and 15% of people will suffer throughout their lives. It is currently one of the first three causes of disability in the world, but in 2030, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) it could become the first cause.

Common mental disorders are on the rise worldwide. Between 1990 and 2013, the number of people with depression or anxiety has increased by about 50% (from 416 to 615 million). Nearly 10% of the world’s population is affected by any of them. “Depression and anxiety are the most frequent mental health disorders. Depression is very marked in the elderly and there is a risk that it will become the leading cause of disability in the coming years, ”says Gallach. “It is a mood disorder, you lose the desire to do things, you are sad and there is a lack of self-esteem. Anxiety has many physical symptoms (tachycardia, palpitations, chest pressure, tremors), ”he adds.

Exercise an antidepressant medicine available to everyone

According to the survey for the WHO Mental Health Atlas 2014, governments spend an average of 3% of their health budgets on mental health, a figure that ranges from less than 1% in low-income countries to 5% in the high income. But beyond the medicines sold in the pharmacy, these patients could have a simple remedy at their disposal: exercise.

 As Depression and Exercise: A Clinical Review and Management Guideline states, a review published by the Asian Journal Sports Medicine: “There is a growing interest in detecting how exercise affects depression symptoms. Although recent findings confirm the positive effect of exercise on depression, there is no clear guide as to advice on exercise for patients with this pathology. ”

 “It is very important to see a professional (psychiatrist or psychologist) who treats you. Exercise will not cure the disease, but it can help you. Sport is a complement that will not replace traditional medicine. Studies say that moderate aerobic physical activity is best for combating depression. Walking, jogging, cycling…. ”Says Jorge García, doctor in High Performance Sports, professor at UNIR.

 Adolescence is a period in which there may be a rebound in depression, especially among girls. The Bidirectional association between sedentary behavior and depressive symptoms in adolescent girls study, records the relationship between sedentary lifestyle and this type of pathology.

Motivation and real goals that help fight anxiety and depression

Good planning helps to obtain the results. “The incorporation of self-control techniques can increase the knowledge of the benefits achieved by exercise and serve to reinforce the patient”, something already indicated by studies such as the benefits of exercise for clinical depression.

Motivation and progression are key. Studies show that depression can be a risk factor for non-compliance with the routine of physical activity. The abandonment in certain phases occurs, to avoid it it is very important that the person selects the physical activity that he likes. What should be achieved is for the person to exercise by devotion, not by obligation. ”Nor should false expectations be set. Depositing your expectations in miracle training or feeding systems can cause you to get more frustrated by not getting the results you want, ”says García. “They should start with the exercise they like: Dancing, walking, cycling… Do it progressively. The important thing is to take the habit and, if possible, to do it in a social or outdoor way, much better, ”said Elisa Gallach, from La Fe Hospital. In this sense, holistic work between different professionals could help patients . The implementation of multidisciplinary programs (including psychology, physical activity and medicine) could be very useful.

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