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Depression and Exercise

Those who know me well, look at me as bit of a health and wellness nut. Don’t look at myself like that, well at least not the nut bit. Most of my work life is behind a desk, in a car, or on a plane. So it is a joy to be out stretching the body, a primeval urge to move, natural and rewarding. Average about nine hours a week of active movement – running, biking, a small amount of gym time. It’s just part of my life. Have worked out, and logged that activity (most recently on Strava) almost every day since I was fourteen.

Don’t get to move and I start to get anxious. Tense at work, life not moving in a positive direction, go for a run, and by the end of the run a bigger picture perspective evolves, viewed in a more relaxed and humble way, calming me down.

In times past have preached movement on its own as a panacea, but now realize, for most, a more balanced approach is necessary. If there were any words I would like jammed back down my throat it would be a phone call with my mother twenty five years ago. She was not feeling well, I was 5,000 miles away and encouraged her to walk more, three months later she was dead, from a heart condition.

I was also hammered this year by a friend who chose to end his life on a run, a route we used to run together once a week, a personal favorite peaceful place. At times dark waves of depression overwhelm the positive hormones flowing from exercise.

So it was with interest that I consumed this article in The Atlantic Monthly “For Depression, Prescribing Exercise Before Medication”. Essentially the message is exercise, therapy and medications can be used in tandem to help the 25% of Americans suffering from depression.

Sounds sensible, and consequently I’ve revised my exercise is the only path mantra. However the point of the article is that exercise, is frequently ignored, and does have a legitimate place in the treatment regime.

Also can’t ignore that for many individuals with chronic health conditions, and consequently increased vulnerability to depression, just a little activity is a challenge. So was impressed on a visit, last week, to one of our customer group homes by the exercise efforts of a number of individuals with Down’s Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy. Will cover this in a separate later post, but found it motivating that activity is being prescribed and that our CaraSolva CareSupport module can track/log this activity (like I log my activity) along with medications and behavioral tasks to improve wellness and health outcomes.
It was a pretty exciting visit, and I only needed a short run that evening : )