by Kelly Trevino, MS, LAT, ATC

Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. At least one in five people will experience depression in their lifetime and it does not discriminate – all genders, race, and ages can develop depression. Treatment for depression currently consists of prescription medication or a combination of therapy along with medication. The effects of exercise on depression, however, is a growing area of interest and may just be the thing you need to curb those down days.

For some, regular treatment is not as affective as it is for others, which is why exercise as a treatment is being looked into more and more. Exercise, as we know, has an effect on physical health such as increasing a person’s VO2 Max and changing their BMI. It also has been found to go beyond the physical and can positively affect mental health and depression.

Current research has shown a lasting effect on the presence of depressive symptoms over time when participating in physical activity. Exercise is also correlated to an increase in white and gray matter in the temporal and frontal cortices of the brain in older adults. The consistency of physical activity has been linked to an increase in mental toughness. Also a change in attention, processing speed, and memory have been shown to have a positive correlation in function when participating in exercise.

Physical activity helps release endorphins, which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers and mood elevators. By increasing endorphin levels, exercise can help reduce feelings of sadness, anxiety, and stress commonly associated with depression.

Participation in physical activity with supervision (a trainer or a coach) has been shown to be more beneficial than self-lead physical activity. Activities such as jogging, hiking, stretching, yoga, weight lifting, etc. are all beneficial for your physical and mental health. In fact, participating in more than one type of physical activity has been shown to have the lowest prevalence of depressive symptoms.

Start to establish a routine in your day that includes some type of physical activity. This can bring about a sense of accomplishment and control, which are essential in managing depression. The benefits of exercise on depression are significant and wide-ranging.

Incorporating regular physical activity into one’s routine can have a positive impact on mental well-being, energy levels, improved mood, and overall quality of life for individuals struggling with depression.

Exercise is not a replacement for professional support. Of those men with common mental health conditions like anxiety, stress, or depression, 40% have not spoken to anyone about their mental health. End the stigma. If you or someone you know is need of support, resources are available to you!

Kelly Trevino, MS, LAT, ATC || Kelly has been practicing athletic training since 2018. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Sport Science from Texas State University where she was also a member of the university’s cross country and track programs. Kelly then attended Texas A&M University and received her Master’s of Science in Athletic Training. Kelly lives in Rio Rancho, New Mexico with her wife, Shelby, and two dogs, Storm and Harvey.

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