It turns out that exercise may be beneficial to more than just your body. Research suggests that walking, in particular, could improve your mental health.
A non-medical treatment for depression
A recent study by the Queensland University of Technology found that moderate-intensity exercise could improve the quality of life for middle-aged women suffering from depression. Women who spent 200 minutes a week walking reported higher levels of energy, more socialization, better emotional outlooks, and less inhibition from depression. In addition, they reported better physical health and less pain.
The study also predicts that by 2030, depression could be the second-leading cause of global disease, and quite possibly, the leading cause in high-income countries.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in ten adults are dealing with depression. The National Institute of Mental Health states that 70 percent of those suffering from depression are likely to be women.
Improving quality of life
The lead researcher, Kristiann Heesch, senior lecturer at Queensland University of Technology, expressed that she believes physical activity may have a major effect on mental health-related quality of life for depressed women in their 50s and 60s.
The study looked at a pool of 1,904 participants, all of whom reported at least ten symptoms of depression when the study began in 2001. Over the course of the study, which ran until 2010, the participants either performed 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 200 minutes of walking each week.
During that time span, nearly all reported improvement in mental and physical health, pain, vitality, physical functioning, and social functions. All amounts of exercise were shown to cause improvements, though more exercise brought about the most significant benefits.
A professor of psychiatry from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, was not involved directly with the study, but did share some thoughts on the findings. “It does improve quality of life. That is not a new finding, but there remains skepticism in the culture that walking really does anything for depression or vitality – and this shows that it does,” said Trivedi.
“My speculation is that those women who did not see the benefit probably stopped or reduced their activity… it may be those are the women who need a more vigorous exercise to benefit,” Trivedi added.
Other mental benefits beyond depression
Research findings, published in a January 2008 Mayo Clinic Health Letter, showed that taking a brisk walk for 30 minutes resulted in a major improvement in mood anywhere from two to 12 hours after, compared with people who did not exercise. It also stated that 30 minutes of exercise a day could reduce stress, improve symptoms of anxiety and mild-to-moderate depression, and boost quality of sleep.
More food for thought, it was explained that “a lack of energy often results from inactivity, not age.”
Additionally, research from the University of Arkansas found that exercise was likely to improve self image, develop higher levels of satisfaction, and a positive self-perception. This positive self-perception could enhance the feelings of sexual desirability, among other things.
What are you waiting for? Time to get moving!
-The Alternative Daily