Exercise treatment for depression, anxiety

by | Nov 29, 2012 | Anxiety, Depression and Stress, Exercise, Fitness & Rehab | 2 comments

Suffering from depression or anxiety?  Hit the gym, not the pill bottle

Just like air to breathe and water to drink, physical exercise is one of life’s essentials.   The evidence of its health benefits keeps piling up.

And the line between physical health and mental health gets more and more blurry.  Now it’s been proven that exercise is more effective than medication at relieving the symptoms of depression and anxiety – the two most common mental health conditions.

One expert to weigh in on the topic is Douglas Noordsy, MD, who addressed the 2012 US Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress.

Dr. Noordsky is an Associate Professor and Director of Psychosis Services at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.  Here’s his conclusion from a large study of people with depression:

“The patients who were independently exercising on their own after the treatment period had half the odds for meeting the depression criteria 6 months later compared to patients who didn’t exercise after the 4-month study.”

That’s a lower relapse rate than among those patients who were taking SSRI’s, one of the standard drug regimens for depression.

Alleviate Anxiety Too

For those experiencing anxiety disorder, Dr. Noordsky also touted the benefits of cardiovascular conditioning.

A state of anxiety is associated with increases in heart and respiratory rate.  Once your heart starts racing and you’re breathing heavily, your anxiety increases even more as part of a negative feedback spiral.

“One of the important positive effects of physical exercise is it allows people to become conditioned to having their heart rate and respiratory rate increase when they’re not associated with anxiety, thereby addressing the [feedback] triggers.”

Lighting a Fire Under Someone’s Keister

Meanwhile, as this cutting edge scientific research continues to emerge, we’re still a nation addicted to pills.  More than 164 million prescriptions were written in 2008 for antidepressants, the last year for which detailed statistics are available.  That adds up to $9.6 billion.

Boosting internal health has proven time and again to have a much bigger impact than treating disease once it arises.  This brings up the most important question confronting any doctor today – how do you help people to do the things for themselves that are known to be healthy?

Many of my patients – and I hope most of my patients – already are regular exercisers.

But what about those who are not?  And what about the untold millions who would never darken the door of a chiropractic office in the first place?  How can they be reached?

It’s a complex issue that is as deep as the human psyche and broad as the human community.

Here’s a start:  if you’re reading this article, get up from your desk and go out and take a walk.  And grab a friend, family member or co-worker.

Dr. Lavine has been an innovator in the use of movement and touch to promote health since 1981. He practices in New York City and Princeton, NJ.


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

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  1. George Blomme

    Good point for all of us to remember. Moderate physical stress using the body for walking and more, beat prescribed drugs in many cases. Its certainly worth a try.

  2. Springdale Clinic

    Exercise can reduce anxiety, it is a great start for managing anxiety. Exercise reduces the likelihood that inactivity related anxiety affects you. It will help to improve the sleep, burn the cortisol.


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