Regular Exercise & Depression

In his new book Fit for the Master: Glorifying God in a Healthy Body, pastor and physical education enthusiast John Lehman cites a case study illustrating the importance of regular exercise and its benefit as one factor in fighting depressive moods. I can personally testify to this connection. Having come out of a long period of depression about a year ago, I see how the lack of regular exercise exacerbated the problem. Consider this brief portion from the third chapter of Lehman’s book:

“Researchers Peter Walters and John Byl have reported elevated mood and reduced anxiety and depression in candidates after exercise. The main reason for this is the release of chemical substances by the body during exercise. These endorphins act as opiates, and they decrease pain as well as produce feelings of wellbeing. Research undertaken by Walters and Byl suggests that exercise can be effective treatment for clinical depression. A study was done on twenty-four patients diagnosed with moderate depression. This group was subdivided into either an exercise group or psychotherapy group. The group that received psychotherapy met with a psychologist once a week, while the exercise group went jogging with a trainer three times a week for 45 to 60 minutes. After twelve weeks, about three fourths of the patients in each of the groups had recovered from their depression. That means that in both categories they had recovered. However, after one year, half of those in the psychotherapy group returned for additional depression treatment, while none of the subjects in the exercise group returned.”

Benefits of Regular Exercise

The author cites the following benefits to regular exercise.

  • Exercise relieves stress and anxiety.
  • Exercise alleviates depression.
  • Exercise treats mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medicines.
  • Exercise improves our mood. As has been mentioned, exercise also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in our brain that energize our spirits and simply make us feel good.
  • Exercise sharpens our brainpower. The same endorphins that make us feel better also help us concentrate and feel mentally sharp for a task that may be at hand.
  • Exercise is an investment in your mind, body, and soul.
  • Exercise assists in energy gain; it has a rejuvenating effect.

[You may also be interested in this Bible study guide and workbook: Overcoming Depression: Help for Christians who Struggle.]

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