Physical Activity and Risk of Depression – Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
I’ve written many times before about the mental health benefits of physical activity and exercise. Being active can help with combating depression and anxiety, as well as lifting your mood and boosting your levels of positivity.
And as you will know from the articles here on my website, exercise is something I routinely make time for in my own life. It helps me to feel better in myself, manage the demands of everyday life and to have (mainly) enjoyable time where all I need to do is focus on the next step or the move in front of me rather than thinking about everything else. When I don’t exercise, I know that I don’t feel quite as good in myself and there are times when I really miss it!
One of the other great benefits of exercise is how you get out of it just as much as you put into it. Through consistency you become fitter and stronger. Only this morning I was at the gym lifting a level of weights that only a few months ago would have been far out of my capability (although don’t be fooled into thinking that it was one of those huge bars with massive weights on that you see in athletics strongman competitions!). There is endless scope for setting and achieving goals, making improvements, getting fitter and feeling better. You can also just take your time and enjoy exercise, such as getting out in nature for a walk (something I’ve covered before as time in nature is also associated with mental health benefits.
The more I write about physical activity for mental health, depression and anxiety, the more I recognise how important it is to include some activity in your daily or weekly routine. On a personal level it’s part of how I seek to manage my own thoughts, feelings and emotions, and beyond that, there is an ever mounting mass of evidence that supports the importance of physical activity for helping with issues such as depression and anxiety.
And just to prove that I do actually get busy with my own exercise, here’s a photo of me crawling along and dragging some sort of weighted thing behind me!
I’ve covered a lot of the evidence for exercise helping with anxiety and depression in previous articles, and so here is a quick recap of some of the impressive research and evidence that exists out there.
Exercise, Depression and Anxiety Relief
Research has shown that exercise can help with depression and anxiety symptoms, and that running reduces your risk of certain health conditions. I’ve written about the research, and why you should get exercising for your mental health here: Ely Festive 5k 2019 and Why You Should Get Running For Your Mental Health.
As well as the benefits for reducing stress and depressive symptoms, and in supporting your positive mental health, the research and evidence shows that exercise can help with the treatment of anxiety and depression. Regular exercise has been associated with lower anxiety and depression (De Moor et al. 2006), exercise has demonstrated a reduction in anxiety (Petruzzello et al, 1991) and exercise decreased overall anxiety sensitivity (Broman-Fulks et al. 2004).
In their systematic review of exercise for anxiety disorders, Jayakody, Gunadasa and Hosker (2014) found that “exercise shows a treatment effect beyond the placebo effect. Although it appears that the anti-anxiety effects of exercise are lesser than antidepressants for clinical anxiety disorders, it can still be beneficial as an adjunctive treatment”. Both aerobic and non-aerobic exercise seemed to reduce anxiety symptoms.
And Aylett, Small and Bower (2018) assessed the use of exercise in the treatment of anxiety and looked at the benefit of high intensity exercise versus low intensity exercise (I wrote about this here: Anxiety Disorders – Why you should get moving to treat anxiety). They concluded that, ‘Exercise programmes are a viable treatment option for the treatment of anxiety. High intensity exercise regimens were found to be more effective than low intensity regimens‘.
Exercise again has a positive impact on mental health and can help with your anxiety and as part of your anxiety treatment (along with psychological therapy such as hypnotherapy for depression and anxiety).
Further support for the benefits of exercise for anxiety disorders comes from a more recent piece of research. Henriksson et al (2021), investigated whether a twelve week exercise intervention, with different intensities, could reduce anxiety symptoms in patients with anxiety disorders.
Based upon their research, they found that a twelve week guided exercise intervention was associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety in primary care patients with anxiety. Both low and moderate/ high intensity exercise interventions improved anxiety symptoms, although many participants had a low level of physical activity at the start of the study and so even a low intensity program would have been a significant increase in physical activity compared to their previously sedentary lifestyles.
“These findings strengthen the view that physical exercise represents an effective treatment and should be more frequently made available for persons with anxiety issues within primary care. Exercise has few side effects, is inexpensive and overall beneficial for general somatic health.”
With regard to exercise and the alleviation of depression symptoms, a 2018 systematic review and meta-analysis by Morres et al that examined the anti-depressant effects of aerobic exercise (versus non-exercise comparators) for depressed adults (18-65 years) recruited through mental health services with a referral or clinical diagnosis of depression (I covered this here: Depression: Does aerobic exercise have anti-depressant effects?).
They found that aerobic exercise “showed a significant large overall anti-depressant effect” on adult patients recruited via mental health services with a referral or a clinical diagnosis of major depression. Aerobic exercise “brought about a large or moderate to large improvement in depression in a wide range of delivery formats through equipment-based or equipment-free modalities, inside or outside a hospital, outdoors or indoors, in groups or individually, and in cohorts with outpatients or inpatients, and with different depressive symptom severity.”
And another meta-analysis (Stathopoulou et al. (2006)) looked at treatment outcomes from exercise for depression and some other mental health issues and found that anaerobic exercise may be equally effective in reducing depressive symptoms compared to aerobic activity, which suggests that resistance training may be an option for those where aerobic exercise is inappropriate or where they do not have the motivation for aerobic exercise. They also found from their analysis that there was evidence to suggest significant benefit from exercise to help with cravings from alcohol abuse, specific thoughts associated with bulimia and for anxiety-related symptoms.
As they conclude, “Our meta-analysis of 11 well-controlled studies yielded a large combined effect size…indicating that exercise can be a powerful intervention for clinical depression.”
Whereas the research above looked at people already diagnosed with depression, Harvey et al (Exercise and the prevention of depression: results of the HUNT Cohort Study (2017)) conducted an eleven year study of 33,908 adults who were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions. Results showed that regular exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression and that the majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity.
Thus exercise appears to have a protective effect against some mental health issues, such as the likelihood of future depression, and also can provide a large beneficial effect to those already suffering with anxiety and depression.
Physical Activity and Risk of Depression
The wealth of evidence supports the notion that physical activity supports being mentally healthy and can help if you struggling with depression. Exercise has an anti-depressant effect and some of that research that I’ve touched upon above suggests that being physically active can offer some protection to you from experiencing future symptoms of depression. This anti-depressant effect is something that has also been investigated in a more recent piece of research and evidence.
Pearce, Garcia and Abbas (2022) carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the association between physical activity and the risk of depression in adults. Their research was based upon fifteen studies comprising 191,130 participants and including more that two million person years, making it a pretty large sample.
They found that adults meeting physical activity recommendations (which is equivalent to 2.5 hours a week of brisk walking) had lower risk of depression, compared with adults reporting no physical activity. That is, even relatively small amounts of physical activity were associated with substantially lower risks of depression.
“This systematic review and meta-analysis of associations between physical activity and depression suggests significant mental health benefits from being physically active, even at levels below the public health recommendations. Health practitioners should therefore encourage any increase in physical activity to improve mental health.”
This is pretty incredible stuff in my opinion. We know from existing research that exercise can help when you are already struggling with depression symptoms. This research strongly supports how being physically active can help reduce your likelihood of experiencing depression in the future. Perhaps even more striking is how these benefits can be achieved through pretty low levels of activity. You don’t have to run miles, lift heavy weights of hit the gym for hour after hour, you can support your mental health with just two and a half hours of brisk walking a week, an amount that is achievable and manageable to practically everyone.
In this analysis, an activity volume equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week was associated with a 25% lower risk of depression, and even at half that amount of physical activity, the risk was 18% lower compared with not being active.
And we also know being sedentary is associated with negative physical and mental health issues: Is Sedentary Behaviour Affecting your physical and mental health? And high amounts of daily sitting time are associated with an increased risk of early death and heart disease (Li, Lear, Rangarajan et al, 2022).
Exercise can, therefore, help by being a treatment for existing depression and can also be a preventative tool to protect your future mental health.
If you are currently struggling with anxiety and depression, it makes sense to include a level of physical activity in your routine to help you with handling, managing and moving on from the thoughts, feelings and behaviours you may be currently struggling with. However, it is also important to seek help to deal with issues such as overthinking, low self-esteem, negative thinking, excessive self-criticism, perfectionism and the other unwanted patterns of thoughts and feelings that contribute to anxiety and depression.
This is where an approach such as hypnotherapy can be helpful. Hypnotherapy for anxiety has been shown to be incredibly effective as a treatment for anxiety (more here: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety) and hypnotherapy can also help you with depression (more here: Cognitive Hypnotherapy For Depression – How Effective Is It?).
To your happiness,
Depression Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Struggling with your depression and need some expert help to help you feel better? Book your Complimentary Hypnotherapy Strategy Session with me now: Appointments
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Aylett, E., Small, N. and Bower, P., 2018. Exercise in the treatment of clinical anxiety in general practice–a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC health services research, 18(1), p.559.
Broman-Fulks, J.J., Berman, M.E., Rabian, B.A. and Webster, M.J., 2004. Effects of aerobic exercise on anxiety sensitivity. Behaviour research and therapy, 42(2), pp.125-136.
Bull, F.C., Al-Ansari, S.S., Biddle, S., Borodulin, K., Buman, M.P., Cardon, G., Carty, C., Chaput, J.P., Chastin, S., Chou, R. and Dempsey, P.C., 2020. World Health Organization 2020 Guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour.
De Moor, M.H.M., Beem, A.L., Stubbe, J.H., Boomsma, D.I. and De Geus, E.J.C., 2006. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population-based study. Preventive medicine, 42(4), pp.273-279
Harvey, S.B., Øverland, S., Hatch, S.L., Wessely, S., Mykletun, A. and Hotopf, M., 2017. Exercise and the prevention of depression: results of the HUNT Cohort Study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 175(1), pp.28-36.
Henriksson, M., Wall, A., Nyberg, J., Adiels, M., Lundin, K., Bergh, Y., Eggertsen, R., Danielsson, L., Kuhn, H.G., Westerlund, M. and Åberg, N.D., 2021. Effects of exercise on symptoms of anxiety in primary care patients: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Affective Disorders.
Jayakody, K., Gunadasa, S. and Hosker, C., 2014. Exercise for anxiety disorders: systematic review. Br J Sports Med, 48(3), pp.187-196.
Li S, Lear SA, Rangarajan S, et al. Association of Sitting Time With Mortality and Cardiovascular Events in High-Income, Middle-Income, and Low-Income Countries. JAMA Cardiol. Published online June 15, 2022. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2022.1581
Meyer, J.D., O’Connor, J., McDowell, C.P., Lansing, J.E., Brower, C.S. and Herring, M.P., 2021. High Sitting Time Is a Behavioral Risk Factor for Blunted Improvement in Depression Across 8 Weeks of the COVID-19 Pandemic in April–May 2020. Frontiers in psychiatry, p.1668.
Morres, Ioannis D., Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis, Afroditi Stathi, Nikos Comoutos, Chantal Arpin‐Cribbie, Charalampos Krommidas, and Yannis Theodorakis. “Aerobic exercise for adult patients with major depressive disorder in mental health services: A systematic review and meta‐analysis.” Depression and anxiety 36, no. 1 (2019): 39-53.
Pearce, M., Garcia, L., Abbas, A., Strain, T., Schuch, F.B., Golubic, R., Kelly, P., Khan, S., Utukuri, M., Laird, Y. and Mok, A., 2022. Association Between Physical Activity and Risk of Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA psychiatry.
Petruzzello, S.J., Landers, D.M., Hatfield, B.D., Kubitz, K.A. and Salazar, W., 1991. A meta-analysis on the anxiety-reducing effects of acute and chronic exercise. Sports medicine, 11(3), pp.143-182.
Reichert, M., Braun, U., Gan, G., Reinhard, I., Giurgiu, M., Ma, R., Zang, Z., Hennig, O., Koch, E.D., Wieland, L. and Schweiger, J., 2020. A neural mechanism for affective well-being: Subgenual cingulate cortex mediates real-life effects of nonexercise activity on energy. Science Advances, 6(45), p.eaaz8934.
Stathopoulou, Georgia, Mark B. Powers, Angela C. Berry, Jasper AJ Smits, and Michael W. Otto. “Exercise interventions for mental health: a quantitative and qualitative review.” Clinical psychology: Science and practice 13, no. 2 (2006): 179-193.