Mood and exercise

Mood and exercise

The new year is a time when people often take stock of life and think of what they can work on in the next year … yes, the New Year’s Resolution! Often, these resolutions include becoming more physically active. Becoming more active is a great goal – years of working in healthcare has shown me your body is meant to move! Did you know that being active not only improves your physical health but also your emotional health?

When I work with someone who is experiencing symptoms of depression, one of the things that I assess is their physical activity. I do this because sedentary individuals are more likely to show symptoms of depression (Teychenne, 2010). People that exercise show more symptoms of depression and fatigue if they stop exercising – and depressive symptoms can start as early as two weeks after you stop (Berlin, 2006).

So, what happens to depression if you start exercising? A study in the Archives in Internal Medicine (1999) took 156 men and women diagnosed with major depressive disorder and divided them into three groups. The first group was assigned to an exercise program only, the second group was assigned to take antidepressants only, and the third group was assigned both the antidepressants and an exercise program. At the end of 16 weeks, their depressive symptoms were measured and the results among the three groups showed no difference. Those taking medication only, those who exercised only, and those who did both showed the same result – all groups had a reduction in depressive symptoms. However, those assigned to an antidepressant showed the fastest response, which is something to keep in mind. As everyone’s situation is unique, all medication decisions should be reviewed with your family doctor or psychiatrist. For those who don’t wish to go on medication and can stay motivated to exercise despite having depression, exercise could be a way to help manage symptoms.

Counselling can help guide you through other specific strategies to manage mood issues and help you stay focused on making physical activity part of your life.

To make an appointment for counselling, or to arrange for a free 15-minute consultation with our social worker, contact us.

1. Berlin, A.A, Kop, W.J., & Deuster, P.A. (2006). Psychosomatic Medicine, 68 (2), 224-30.
2. Blumenthal, J.A., Babyak, M.A., Moore, K.A et al. (1999). Archives of Internal Medicine, 159 (19), 2349-56.
3. Teychenne M., Ball K., & Salmon J. (2010). International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 17(4), 246-254.