People should try to move a little each day, Heisz suggested. It’s maybe a five or ten minute walk. This could be a two-minute break every 30 minutes for people who sit all day.
“It’s how simple we have to be, especially for people who don’t move at all, and recognize that there’s this extra barrier of motivation for people with depression,” she said.
“I think the mounting evidence makes it clear that we need to start a conversation about the benefits of exercise for these people, either alone or as an add-on therapy to medications,” Heisz said.
Dr. Antonia Baum is Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
In treating depression, there’s a role for exercise, for psychotherapy, for removing drugs of abuse and for adding medications specifically targeted to be therapeutic, Baum said, who played no role. In this study.
There are many reasons why exercise can benefit mental health, she said.
It can improve circulation to the brain and impact inflammation and the body’s immune response. There is a relationship between heart health and depression. There may also be intangible benefits, such as feeling stronger as you get stronger or having a sense of well-being, Baum said.
The authors of this new study are accumulating a lot of data to support the relationship between physical activity and depression, although there could be many variables, including genetics, Baum said.
In his work, Baum has seen how overexercise can lead to burnout in athletes or be a factor in an eating disorder. So she was thrilled to see that the study also looked at just how much the benefits of exercise might stabilize.
“They at least hinted at this inverse relationship at some crossover point, which of course is hard to quantify,” Baum said.
While many providers suggest to their patients that they would benefit from exercise, it’s important to reinforce that message, Baum said. Practicing what she preaches, she sometimes models exercise behavior in sessions with patients by walking or running with them.