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Running Can Help Treat Depression

By Paul Rothbart

Depression is a serious and debilitating condition that affects more people than you may think. It is estimated that 1 in 10 adults in the U.S. suffers from some form of depression. It is the leading cause of disability for people aged 15-44. Depression is clearly not a condition to be taken lightly. Fortunately, it is treatable, using therapy and medication. Physical activity is also very effective in controlling depression and one of the best activities is running. Here are some of the ways that running can help with depression.

Improve Brain Chemistry

Depression is tied to a lack of serotonin, a hormone in the brain that improves mood. Endorphins also improve mood and provide a feeling of happiness and well-being. Exercise increases the production of these chemicals and running is one of the most effective physical activities in this regard. These chemicals ease anxiety and enable the body and mind to relax.

Sense of Accomplishment

Depression often creates a feeling of worthlessness, as if nothing we do matters. Finishing a run counters this by providing a sense of accomplishment. Running your full mileage goal feels good and doing it in a specified time increases that sense. Maintaining a running program day after day and improving running times furthers the positive effect on depression and makes it long-lasting. 

Sunshine

The sun is necessary for good health, both mental and physical. The body uses sunshine to create Vitamin D, a nutrient that may lessen the risk of depression. The good feeling of the warm sun on your face and body can also help produce the endorphins that are so important to an elevated mood. Getting outside on its own is helpful in the fight against depression. Doing it while running is even more so. 

The Effect of Better Fitness

Running will improve your level of physical fitness. There is no doubt about this. Getting to and maintaining a healthy weight just feels good. So does a strong cardiovascular system. Greater levels of energy, less fatigue, and the knowledge that you look better are all mood boosters that are very helpful in the fight against depression. It's an upward spiral. Running helps you feel better. When you feel better, you are more inclined to run, which makes you feel better and so on.

Depression is a very common problem and its effects are not to be taken lightly. If you suffer from any form of depression, help is available and it should be sought. While not a substitute for therapy or medication, running can be very helpful in the fight against depression. As a dysthymia sufferer and runner, I know whereof I speak.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Hoboken, N.J.

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