Exercise as Medicine: Activity as Depression Management

Guest blogger Galen Friesen, Covell Intern and Colorado State University graduate.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 18% of the population every year. The process of treatment for mental conditions can be frustrating and extremely stressful; but a viable treatment option exists innately within every single person.

Exercise is always an option regardless of ability level, experience, or life circumstance. Exercise looks slightly different for every person, and can be tailored to meet individual needs extremely well. Public health recommendations for exercise (150 minutes hours to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise [1]) have been shown to be scientifically effective at treating depression [2]. Analysis of 80 studies also shows that benefits of exercise can even be obtained regardless of duration, as long as a consistent frequency is maintained [3]. This means that something as simple as a daily walk can help combat depression, as long as it is a consistent practice. So if long concentrated exercise sessions are not a good fit for you, consistent physical activity is still an option, if frequency is emphasized.

The main takeaway of the relationship between exercise and mental health is that exercise is an effective and proven way to mitigate symptoms of mental illness and there are seemingly endless different ways to go about exercising, so there is guaranteed to be a form of exercise that suits each individual differently.

[1] HHS Office, & Council on Sports. (2019, February 01). Physical Activity Guidelines for
Americans. Retrieved from https://www.hhs.gov/fitness/be-active/physical-activity-guidelines-for-americans/index.html
[2] Exercise treatment for depression: Efficacy and dose response. (2004, December 27). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379704002417
[3] Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry,06(03), 104-111. doi:10.4088/pcc.v06n0301