Doing this simple activity may make those Sunday Scaries a lot better

Photo: Leah Kelley

Feeling a bit blue lately? It’s hard not to. The world is a rather uncertain place. But a new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine may give you some hope.

A team of researchers from Rutgers found that aerobic exercise can help lessen depression in young adults.

The study involved 66 young adult subjects who had major depression. They were asked to do moderately intense workouts or light-intensity stretching three times a week for eight weeks.

“Our study needs to be replicated, but the precision medicine approach of predicting who may or may not benefit from exercise as an antidepressant is provocative,” said senior author Brandon L. Alderman, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, in a release on the study. “We also need to know whether exercise has a similar antidepressant effect in younger adolescents and in adults with more treatment-resistant forms of depression who have not responded well to traditional treatments, including antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy.”

It should also be known that this study involved an analysis of cognitive control and reward-related brain activity: two areas of the brain that can be impacted in people diagnosed with depression.

Of course, this study centered around subjects diagnosed with major depression but it is interesting to think that a little bit of intense exercise may be able to help fend off those Sunday Scaries or just general doom about the state of the world.

It falls in line with another recent study that found that high-intensity workouts can help decrease overall stress and boost levels of job satisfaction.

The lead author of the study, Christopher Neck, Ph.D., an associate professor at Arizona State University, Tempe, told Bicycling.com,  “What the findings show is that as exercise intensity goes up, it has a significant relationship on lowering stress and increasing job satisfaction.”

A similar study out of Harvard University found that only 35 minutes per day of an increased heart rate can have major benefits on depression. Subjects experienced a 17% decrease in their chances of battling periods of depression over the next two years after working out for a period.

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable,” says Dr. Karmel Choi, of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in a release. “On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.”