Walk To Combat Depressionby Dr Emma Gray - 27th June, 2012
It has long been recognised that vigorous exercise such as going to the gym, running, swimming and cycling can alleviate the symptoms of depression. New research, published in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity , has shown that walking also has a ”large effect” on depression and an individuals mental health. As simple a task as taking a brisk walk can form a part of a daily routine to help them overcome depression and the associated impact that has on one’s life, research in Scotland has suggested.
It is estimated that a third of the population will suffer with mental health problems at some point in their lives and at any one time one in ten people are suffering with depression.
Treatments for mental health problems such as depression can be costly and the counselling services the government provides through the NHS are restricted due to the cuts being made to public spending. A typical case of mild depression would see a patient prescribed anti-depressant drugs by their local GP, which is in no way a solution to the underlying problem. Advocating physical exercise has been another way GP’s have been able to help their patients but significantly one of the many things to be affected by depression is an individual’s motivation and energy which makes sport and exercise all the more difficult.
Academics at the University of Stirling reviewed eight studies with data on 341 patients to find information on one of the most accessible and gentlest forms of exercise – walking.
The report showed that “walking was an effective intervention for depression” and its effect was similar to that of other vigorous forms of exercise…..Walking has the advantages of being easily undertaken by most people, incurring little or no financial cost and being relatively easy to incorporate into daily living.”
They warned that further research is needed and that there is questions on how long and fast one needs to walk and whether that should be done indoors or out, to get the maximum benefits.
A specialist at the University of Exeter on the effects of exercise on depression, addiction and stress Professor Adrian Taylor said “The beauty of walking is that everybody does it…There are benefits for a mental-health condition like depression.”
Whilst it isn’t know the exact reason why exercise is an effective treatment for depression Prof Taylor said “there were ideas about exercise being a distraction from worries, giving a sense of control and releasing feel-good hormones”.
When choosing an exercise to help with your mental health it is important to find an exercise which you enjoy and can keep doing. Have a go at different things such walking, jogging, tennis, squash or cycling.
“Participating in sports with others can have an even greater effect as it reinforces and develops social networks, allows you to talk about your problems with friends and can be an excellent distraction to the daily grind” said Dr Gray at The British CBT & Counselling Service ”