Physical Exercise, An ‘Antidote’ Against Depression

physical exercise

It is difficult to predict the impact on the mental health of a good part of the population will generate the still persistent crisis. You have to consider that two of the main risk factors associated with depression. Those are the loss of the job position and, consequently, the worsening of the economic situation (in a good number of cases, the poverty line).

It is not surprising that the number of people affected by this mental illness has increased disproportionately in recent years. The numbers are overwhelming: about 350 million people worldwide are affected by this mental disorder. In our country, three million Spaniards suffer it, generating costs (direct and indirect) of more than 3500 euros per person per year.

Against this background, there is a need for prevention programs and proposals for new treatments. Either alone or together with existing pharmacology, it can alleviate the social impact of this disease. In this sense, physical exercise is a well-established therapeutic alternative. A good number of studies have verified positive effects on depressive symptomatology.physical exercise photo

Although only moderate effects have been achieved so far. No higher than those that can perform other types of treatments (pharmacological, psychotherapy). There are different reasons for considering physical exercise as a weight option in the treatment of depression. At its low cost is added a good series of benefits on the body that result in the mental health of the practitioner.

For example, improving muscular strength and cardiorespiratory endurance allow us to face with safeguards daily tasks. You will find them previously impossible to perform or avoidable. At the same time, changes in body composition (usually weight loss and an increase in muscle mass) and greater energy supply confer greater self-esteem to the person. At the same time, the practice of physical exercise improves, in general, and significantly, brain function. In this sense, recent studies have shown important effects on executive functions, including mental flexibility, inhibitory control, and working memory. All of these are markedly decreased in people with depression moods.

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But undoubtedly, one of the main effects of physical exercise is the change in the mood of the practitioner. Of transient nature, the practice of physical workout exercise produces the release to the circulatory torrent of different neurotransmitters. Among those serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, increasing their blood concentration, especially in the cerebral circulation. These neurotransmitters, which act on specific receptors in the limbic system, induce effects of anxiolytic character. This is difficult to reproducible with other treatments. Also, already considering a medium-term effect, adaptations are achieved that involve the regulation of the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. By limiting in this way the excessive responses of cortisol, the main stress hormone, and reducing, in a way Stable, its circulating levels.

Therefore, to ensure an adequate mental health, participation in physical exercise programs is a key preventive strategy against mood disorders. These exercise should led by experienced professionals. Individualized programs adapted to the needs of each person or patient that also represent good experiences. Which build solid beliefs and expectations in the therapeutic capacity of physical exercise that are firm alternatives to standardized treatments.

The research challenges are clear. The purpose is to be able to accurately define the dose-response relationship and the effectiveness of treatment based on physical exercise applied either in isolation or as a complement to other treatments. Also, to focus this type of interventions in populations whose future mental health is at risk, as is the case of children and young people.

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