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Queens Chronicle

HEALTH & FITNESS Working out can lower odds of depression

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Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2019 10:30 am

Getting some exercise can improve not only people’s physical health but their mental health as well.

One recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that “low physical activity is associated with a greater incidence of common mental health disorders.”

Dr. Teresa Amato, chairwoman of emergency medicine at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Forest Hills hospital, explained when someone is running the brain releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that act on the same receptors that are affected when taking some pain medications.

The receptors can give the person a good feeling, known as a “runner’s high.”

“That feeling of feeling less pain and feeling happy is based on the fact that you are releasing endorphins into your brain that are triggering those targets in your brain,” Amato said.

She noted that some literature on the subject says even light to moderate exercise can lift people’s moods.

“What we try to tell people, this doesn’t mean you need to go out and run a marathon and get the runner’s high to feel better,” Amato said.

Working out 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week with low to moderate intensity has been shown to improve people’s moods.

This can include a quick walk, gardening or housework. And it helps to do something with another person.

“Then you’re interacting with another person and you’re exercising so you can kind of boost your mood in two ways,” Amato said.

She did add that exercise by itself is not a cure for depression or anxiety.

“I think one of the challenges, though, is that if you tell someone who’s depressed or anxious, ‘Just go for a run and you’ll feel better,’ I think you have to be aware that some people who are already depressed or anxious, just getting out of bed is a kind of a big chore for them,” she said.

“So I wouldn’t say it’s the panacea for depression and anxiety but if it’s used in conjunction with a treatment plan it’s probably one of the better things you can do that doesn’t cost a whole let to help increase your mood.”

Amato also recommended that people over 50 with heart disease or diabetes should check with their healthcare provider before starting a rigorous exercise program.

Scott Krakower, assistant unit chief of psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, said he encourages his patients to work out and has noticed over the years that aerobic physical activity has helped.

“It just gives people more motivation if they find themselves down and depressed,” Krakower said.

For people who have trouble getting out of bed, advising them to exercise is a form of opposite action therapy. Even walking around the block is better than nothing.

Krakower said there are varying levels of reaction when he recommends exercise.

“You would think adding exercise on would be somewhat intuitive,” he said, adding that depressed people may expect to just talk and that the exercise depends on how willing someone is to be active.

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