When children and adults are living with depression it can be difficult to motivate yourself and family to move. But move you must. Exercise is proven to be as effective if not more effective than medication in the treatment of depression. Absolute fact. NCBI illustrates the following in several peer-reviewed studies: “Following 16 weeks of treatment, groups did not differ in their level of depressive symptoms, suggesting that exercise and standard antidepressant treatments were equally effective. Interestingly, a follow-up examination of these participants conducted 10 months after the completion of the treatment period showed that participants in the exercise group showed lower rates of depression relapse in comparison with both the sertraline and combined groups. Moreover, participants who reported engaging in regular exercise during the follow-up period were more than 50% less likely to be depressed at their 10-month assessment compared to non-exercisers.” Why is that?
Let me let Harvard scientists explain: “High-intensity exercise releases the body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, resulting in the “runner’s high” that joggers report. But for most of us, the real value is in low-intensity exercise sustained over time. That kind of activity spurs the release of proteins called neurotrophic or growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. The improvement in brain function makes you feel better. In people who are depressed, neuroscientists have noticed that the hippocampus in the brain—the region that helps regulate mood—is smaller. Exercise supports nerve cell growth in the hippocampus, improving nerve cell connections, which helps relieve depression,” explains Dr. Miller.
In a previous interview on childhood depression, Grace Lester, LMFT discusses how depression feels irritating to the person who is experiencing it. The irritation lends itself to someone feeling lethargic with increased pain perception (depression actually heightens the experience of pain), and sleep disturbances. It runs counter to the thought of exercise. However, you don’t need much to get started.
Just begin with 10 minutes a day of walking as a family or doing any physical activity you enjoy and build on it from there.
Before you know it, you will have reduced your pain perception, increased your restorative sleep, and built new neuropathways that physically altered the shape of your child’s brain in a positive manner. Not only that your child’s body released endorphins, which acted like a natural morphine that made you and your child feel energized, relaxed and happy. All of this can actually occur through the power of exercise.
Ideally, you would like to build up to three (30 to 45 min.) workout sessions a week, which totals on the high end only 2 hours and 15 minutes of your child’s time in a seven day span.
Please remember not to put a timeframe on you or your child’s happiness. Your child’s depression will not lift immediately after the first session but he/she will get there sooner rather than later. Exercise will reduce and prevent future relapses of depression. You have the power to help your child change the way he/she thinks, feels and acts. So begin today with a bit of exercise!
If you or a loved one is having thoughts of harming yourself or someone else, please contact a health care professional in your area immediately or contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Trained professionals are there to help you 24 hours a day- 7 days a week!