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Depression and Exercise: The Important Connection

By Randi Morse

It's never easy to have a mental illness, in part because it's a "hidden disease." You can't prove that you have it. There's no tests that you can take that show you're depressed, or what level of depression you're at. Depression is a huge problem in the mental illness world. It affects more than 300 million people around the world every day. At its best, it keeps you from being social and enjoying all of the things in your life. At worst it causes you to have some very deep, unpleasant thoughts. 

The good news is that there are things you can do, every day, that will help you to battle back depression and keep another depressive episode from happening. The magic word of the day is: exercise. 

I know, I know, they say that exercise is the cure for everything from the common cold to overcoming cancer, but science has proven that exercise definitely does help those who suffer from depression. To understand why, we first must have a basic understanding of the causes of depression.

Depression Basics

One thing that all doctors agree on is that there are a number of different causes of depression. Depression can be caused by medication, hormonal issues, neurological issues, and genetic issues. Yes, you might be able to blame your depression on your ancestors. Although there are a number of different things that can cause depression, doctors have found that exercise actually helps to release something called neurotrophic proteins. These proteins are necessary for the brain's nerve cells to make new connections. Research shows the hippocampus in the brain of a person suffering from depression is often smaller than it is in someone who doesn't have depression. The theory is that exercise will help the nerve cells to grow, which will then improve the connections with the hippocampus which, in turn, helps relieve depression.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

So how much exercise do you need in order to help combat against depression? Scientists don't  have an exact number. One thing they do agree on is that in order to achieve the maximum benefit of exercising when it comes to depression, you need to exercise on a regular basis and not just one or two times. This means that you should select some sort of exercise that you enjoy enough that you can sustain over a period of time. One great option that may help with this challenge is to create a small area in your home that acts as a home gym. A treadmill, some weights, or a resistance band is all you need to start your own small, at-home gym. 

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Davie, Fla.

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