By Kevin Vondergeest ACSM Exercise Physiologist and Employee Wellness Supervisor at Adventist Health Lodi Memorial
Hi health enthusiasts! Earlier in the year we discovered that 150 minutes of exercise a week or 30 minutes a day can act as your one cure all for managing or preventing all chronic illness such as heart disease, and some cancers. Being the closest thing to a magic pill, physical activity can also help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Both anxiety and depression are not just debilitating for those suffering, but can also be debilitating for their families as well, which ultimately affects everyone’s quality of life. It raises their risk of dying, lowers self-esteem/motivation, and can even interfere in relationships and drive us to isolation. In other words, depression makes everyday life harder. The medical cost of depression is the highest out of all chronic medical healthcare costs since many other illnesses and addictions are associated with depression. This also affects the companies we work for in terms of lost dollars at work from absenteeism (being absent), and presenteeism (being present at work but not productive); however, there is good news.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) through the Exercise Is Medicine ® (EIM) campaign even just one exercise session can lower anxiety and make you feel calmer in minutes. The effect is similar to meditation or taking medication. For depression, research shows that regular moderate and particularly vigorous physical activity improves mental well-being and other symptoms of depression. For example, active people are 45% less likely to develop symptoms of depression. The effects are similar to those seen after drug therapy. Research shows that exercise intensity of all sorts will reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, but as we know with medications there is a dose response and exercise works the same way. As you move to a more vigorous form of exercise this will give you maximal benefits. For those who are interested in learning the science behind exercise and depression, here is a short video by Dr. Rhonda Patrick who lays out the latest scientific evidence for depression and exercise https://youtu.be/1-U5OX3sbA8.
So does the type of exercise make a difference? Whether it’s aerobic or strength they have benefits for both anxiety and depression. The best choice for you, is doing whichever physical activity you enjoy most. When you first start, you may only be able to endure short bouts of exercise, so all you need to do is walk at a pace that feels like a moderate effort for you. 10 minutes of exercise 3 times is an easy way to make that 30 min a day more manageable. I would recommend doing your 10+ min of exercise after your meals to make it a part of an already established routine. The benefit of post meal activity is to reduce the blood sugar response to the meal to help further protect from the development of diabetes or pre-diabetes. As you get stronger and your endurance improves, you would want to increase the length of your sessions until you are doing 30-60 minutes of moderate activity continuously. To do this, you could add up to 5 minutes of additional moderate physical activity to your weekly routine.
For those who are more advanced and have worked through the steps above, you should consider doing 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week which can include strength training, running, intense cycling, or interval training for your maximal dosage/effect of exercise on anxiety and depression and many other medical conditions. Always seek the advice of your physician before starting a new exercise routine and I strongly advise seeking the advice of a certified exercise professional before starting at a higher level. This will help prevent injuries and guide you through any medical challenges you may have.
Exercise is medicine and the more consistently you take your daily dose, the less pharmaceutical medicine you may need. It will increase your likeliness to experience an uplifted quality of life with greater mental focus, energy, strength, balance, and so much more. We were made to move, be social, lean on one another, and be a community as we do life together. Grab a family member, a friend, or a neighbor to go get some vitamin D outside or go to a safe indoor environment at your local community gym such as Adventist Health Fitness and start today!
Information credited to EIM and ACSM https://www.exerciseismedicine.org/support_page.php/rx-for-health-series/