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Depression can be defined as prolonged periods of deep sadness, hopelessness and dejection. It can be a mild psychological problem that goes away after some therapy and possibly with the help of medications, but it can also be a serious problem that in some people lasts very long and possibly leads to suicide.

There are several ways to deal with depression. Psychotherapy, counseling and medications are the main treatment options. However, other things can help too. Lifestyle changes, dietary choices and exercise have proven to be very helpful for many depression sufferers.

The beneficial effects on exercise for depression have been proven in a study that involved 156 depressed people divided into three groups. One group took antidepressants, the second participated in regular aerobic exercise and the third combined with medications and exercise.

The participants in all three groups improved over the course of 16 weeks, but at different rate. The medication group was the quickest to show improvement. In combination group 68,8 percent of participants were no longer diagnosed as clinically depressed and among those of the exercise only group and in the exercise-only group that percentage was 60,4. The success rate in the medication-only group was 65,5 percent.

Scientists believe that the main reason why exercise is beneficial for depression sufferers is a neurotransmitter called serotonin. This brain chemical is closely linked to depression. Regular exercise seems to alter serotonin levels and thus improve mood and boosts the feeling of well-being.

Exercise suggestions

Before starting any kind of workout program, it is recommended to consult a doctor, especially if there are other health issues in addition to depression. Seeing a doctor is also highly recommended for persons who are starting an exercise program after years of sedentary lifestyle.

The best way to benefit from exercise is to choose a fun activity. Some people enjoy hiking, jogging or walking, some prefer swimming, and there are those who are at their best in a gym.

Activities such as household choirs, dancing or even walking endlessly in a mall also count as physical activity.

Lack of motivation is one of the main characteristics of depression, which is why it is recommended to a family member or a friend to be the exercise partner.

Exercise is best if done two to six times per week for at least 30 minutes a day.

Warming up, cooling down and stretching are important parts of any exercise routine as they prevent potential injuries.

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