Depressed? Don’t pop a pill – just MOVE

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(Natural News) It turns out that not only can exercise make you fit, it can also help relieve depression. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) discovered that even a small amount of physical activity, such as jogging for 15 minutes every day, can make a difference.

The number of people suffering from depression continues to increase. In the U.S., 16.2 million adults have experienced a major depressive episode in the previous year. It is also estimated that 15 percent of adults in the U.S. will experience depression at some point in their lives.

In their study, which was published in JAMA Psychiatry, the researchers looked at 611,583 adults. Some of the participants reported their physical activity levels, while others used an accelerometer – an electromechanical device used to measure movement. In addition to recording the participants’ activity levels, the researchers also examined their DNA and history of depression. The researchers found that an individual’s genes do not affect whether he reaps the mental health benefits of being active. (Related: The link between physical exercise and preventing depression.)

The participants who wore accelerometers during physical activity exhibited a reduced risk of depression, while those who self-reported their activity did not experience the same benefit. The researchers explained that this may be due to inaccuracies in participants’ memories or the desire to present themselves in a positive way. In addition, objective readings record things other than planned exercise that participants may not recognize as physical activity, such as climbing the stairs, walking to work, or mowing the lawn.

The researchers suggested that any activity is better than none. Lead author Karmel Choi, Ph.D., of the Psychiatric and Neurodevelopmental Genetics Unit in the MGH Center for Genomic Medicine, suggested that replacing sitting with 15 minutes of running or any heart-pumping activity is “enough to produce the average increase in accelerometer data that was linked to a lower depression risk.”

How to start being active

If you have been living a sedentary life, it may be hard at first to start being more active. But you don’t have to worry – here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Find something you enjoy doing – It can be dancing, walking around the block, or going out for a quiet bike ride – just move. You can also try activities with your friends or family members to get you motivated and encouraged.
  • Start out slow – Start out with sessions of only 5 to 10 minutes. Over time, you can work your way up to longer and more intense exercises.
  • Look for ways to reduce your sedentary time – You can start by taking a walk after dinner or any meal, instead of watching TV.
  • Aim for 30 minutes a day – Set a goal of doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. You can break this down into three 10-minute sessions or two 15-minute sessions.
  • Work your muscles, too – In addition to aerobic exercise, you should also work your muscles. Resistance training or weightlifting strengthens your muscles and improves your balance and coordination. This will reduce your risk of osteoporosis and prevent injuries or falls.
  • Try home exercises – Working out does not mean you have to spend money on gym membership. You can get a great workout at home. There are fitness DVDs that you can buy or borrow from local libraries. You can also tune in to a fitness show broadcast on television or online. There are other home workouts that need little or no special equipment, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope, squats, pushups, jumping jacks, and weight training with found objects like a heavy book, a water bottle, or bags of beans.

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