Outrunning threats of depression

Jessenia Feijo 

A jog a day keeps the therapist away.

Studies show exercise can prevent or decrease depression.

University of Toronto PhD candidate George Mammen, with professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education (also U of T) Guy Faulkner reviewed 30 studies in which 25 found physical activity could prevent the onset of depression.

“Depression is, according the World Health Organization, the leading cause of disability worldwide,” said Mammen.

“Going into treatment with drugs and therapy that can all cost a lot, but physical activity is one strategy that could be a cheap thing and anyone can do it,” he said.

How one deals with stress is important and exercise is even more important, said professor of Psychology at University of Guelph-Humber Dr. Dan Andreae.

“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain. That makes you feel sharper which in the long run of things makes you feel better,” said Andreae.

You don’t need a lot of exercise, he said.

“People say half an hour to an hour of going hard at the gym is what we need but no, not necessarily,” said Andreae.

Basic exercises that are done two to three times a day in 10-minute sessions can be effective, Andreae said.

“Going for a walk can be helpful, so anybody can do it. Definitely (it) is part of a package.” The package also includes nutrition and getting the right amount of sleep.

“Based on the findings and based on what I know, students who are physically active are less likely to develop depression and less likely to experience depression symptoms,” said Mammen.

“Working out for me, even if it is taking the long way home, is important to me because it makes me feel better,” said Jennifer Amaya, 20, second-year Humber Early Childhood Education student.

“When I nap, I wake up and feel like doing nothing. When I am active, I am in a good mood and continue to be productive all day. Whenever I’m feeling down, I work out to end the day feeling good,” said Amaya.

“Exercise, in our study, is any aerobic exercise,” said Mammen, adding that this can  include walking, jogging, sprinting, playing soccer and any other activity.

“The lowest form of activity was gardening, which was considered helpful in the prevention of depression. So it doesn’t have to be a full-on workout like people associate (with) going to the gym, it could be as simple as taking a walk,” said Mammen.

Sergio Mazzaferro, a third-year Media Studies student at Guelph-Humber, said little things can make a difference.

“Instead of taking elevators, take stairs. Instead of driving to the store close to your house – walk,” said Mazzaferro.

Motivation is the biggest challenge, Mammen said. “The advice I would give would be to try and find or do exercises with friends or with family so that way you have someone doing it with you.”

It helps a lot to tackle the challenge with someone else rather than solo, because it is already very difficult being alone when you’re depressed, he noted.

“Exercise with someone else. That way you’re getting outside, you’re being with someone and talking to someone,” said Mammen.