You Can Actually Run Away From The Dark Clouds Of Depression & Anxiety:
For some time now, psychologists and sufferers alike have been trying to decode the puzzles of Anxiety & Depression.
How can we fix them and why do they happen in the first place.
Well, at least more than the Lao Tzu quote on it tells us.
And quite recently, there have been some real controversies over whether or not the medications we have for them even really work; or how.
Given all the wandering-about with different doses, types, and figuring out treatment-resistant problems, who could blame them?
As you might have guessed, some rockstar (sorry, Paul Stanley!) researchers looked into many different ways to treat these mental health problems, and they came back with one really promising answer…
The Short Answer:
- There has been some recent controversy about medications for mental health.
- Many times, they are the first answer many doctors give patients.
- A team at Uni-SA reviewed over 1000 pieces of research with almost 130,000 subjects.
- They found that exercise was about 1.5x more effective at lowering symptoms of anxiety & depression than standard medications.
- There are some odd results in the work.
- But all types of exercise showed benefit.
- High-intensity exercise showed the most benefit.
- Short to medium session duration was associated with more benefit.
- The type of person to benefit the most other someone who’s depressed was kind of a mixed-bag.
- Some clues to how this works are found in several chemicals your body & brain naturally release during exercise.
- These include natural anti-inflammatories and brain-cell growth factors.
- Perhaps now exercise will become a more official mainstay of treating anxiety & depression.
Read on to find out the details…
→ Show/Hide Table Of Contents ←
So not only has the chemical-imbalance theory taken a serious hit recently.
But for quite awhile, !SCIENCE! didn’t even know how one of the first antidepressants worked!
Funnily enough, it turns out the effects of that one were discovered to come from making you grow new brain-cells.
Similarly, SSRIs in-general tend to do the same thing.
This includes setting up the neurochemical environment where the new cells would also be kept instead of being pruned away by your brain’s cleanup routine.
There is another activity that does this also, and that’s where the study picks up!
So in a huge umbrella review by Uni-SA researchers, they looked at a ton of previous data.
These included almost 100 reviews, and over 1000 trials which spanned more than 128,000 participants.
What they found after this was regular physical activity was approximately 1.5x more effective than talk therapy or medication at improving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Not that those three approaches are mutually-exclusive.
They were also able to figure out some parameters, a few of which sound odd, to help point people in the right direction.
So even though we’re reporting the results here, feel free to ignore some of the obvious contradictions as probably just noise.
The review found:
1) Programs of 12 weeks or shorter had the best results
1a) Contradiction: You should make exercise a habit and not restrict it to a short time. It needs to be part of your life.
2) Short & mid duration exercise times had better results than longer ones
2a) Contradiction: You need at least 30 min/day. Were the short durations high-intensity? Were these just the most common intervals? Other studies have shown no limit to the benefits you can get from exercising longer
3) High intensity exercise had better results at reducing anxiety & depression
4) All types of exercise were helpful, from yoga to walking to weights
5) The largest observed benefits were among: depressed people, pregnant/postpartum women, healthy people, and people with HIV or kidney disease.
5a) So this means either they had the most samples among these populations, or it works for almost everyone, especially people who are likely to be depressed
The best part of this review is that it’s so expansive, it might make the case for something that’s not recommended as a first-line treatment very often.
If you think about it, what do most psychologists do?
:: studies many disorders at university, throws pills at depressed/anxious clients in practice::
But if the effectiveness stats are right, then exercise might work even better and faster than all the fancy medications that patients spend forever on trying to get the right type and dose.
And since a lot of those meds also have side-effects not limited to weight-gain, exercise could be a MUCH healthier option, too.
But how does it work?
I don’t know if !SCIENCE! has figured out the entire biochemical cascade that happens with exercise.
But crucially, it has figured out a couple of things.
In a variety of results that are eerily similar to the way SSRIs work, researchers have found that running does more or less the same thing as anti-depressants.
It’s also possible that other cardio does the same, just a bit slower.
As far as the brain-cell growth, the jury is out on whether the body’s compound (BDNF) is stronger than the prescription one.
But cardio has one more magical step that SSRIs don’t.
Running releases your body’s own pot-like chemicals called “Endocannabinoids”, so it’s almost like a full-body experience of smoking a small amount of marijuana.
Even just going for a walk tends to clear out your mind, make you feel fresher and give you all kinds of new ideas at about the 40-minute mark.
So perhaps another one of the reasons the research by Uni-SA found such great results is that endocannabinoid effect on your body as well as your brain.
Since they’re released right in your body and tailored to it, there’s a chance they might even work faster than traditional medication, too.
One more way this might work.
In another piece of work by a team from Duke, it was found that inflammatory chemicals applied to muscle tissue made them shrink and atrophy.
But in the presence of that muscle being exercised, the action of the inflammatory compounds was completely blocked.
And the pathways acted-on were the exact same two that the main drugs for rheumatoid arthritis work on.
To wrap-up, there are also plenty of other approaches to helping anxiety & depression than just medication.
A few of these include:
1) Getting excellent sleep regularly and fixing any problems with that
2) Great nutrition and reducing things that might be offensive like sugar & UPFs
3) Reducing inflammation
4) Supplements like Omega 3 oils that can counterbalance an excess of Omega 6 and also reduce inflammation
5) Vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and Magnesium.
6) CBT practices like identifying and challenging cognitive distortions & limiting-beliefs
7) Gut microbe boosters like probiotics or naturally-fermented foods
8) Mindfulness Meditation
You might not get all of these at the psychologist’s office, where the focus may be a bit too much on root-causes.
But they are out there on YouTube channels from people like Dr. Emma McAdam, Dr. Mike Evans, and Dr. Eric Berg (even though he’s a DC).
So with all of its amazing benefits, it’s no surprise that researchers are putting some actual numbers to the effect of exercise on depression & anxiety!