This is the sixth post in a series of entries I will be writing on Post-College Depression.
In the first post of this series I talked about what post-college depression is and typical symptoms and causes. In the second post we discussed how a lack of a sense of control over one's life can result in millennials and emerging adults from Generation Y developing post-college depression. In the third we talked about how the tyranny of choice and high expectations can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression after college. In the fourth we talked about how you can use positive psychology techniques to combat postcollege depression, anxiety, and stress. In the fifth we talked about how you can use journal writing to conquer the postcollege blues. Today we will take about how you can use exercise to improve your mood and mental health.
We all know that exercise can make you look and feel better, but were you aware that it is one of the most effective ways to fight anxiety and depression? Exercise’s powerful psychological effects have been shown to consistently fight the blues and are even as effective as more traditional forms of treatment.
Exercise Compared to Therapy
In a study by psychiatrist John Griest and colleagues from the University of Wisconsin, two groups of patients with major depression were randomly assigned to either an exercise group that ran for forty minutes, three times a week, or to one of two forms of individual psychotherapy. At the end of ten weeks the participants in all three groups showed significant reductions in depression.
What was significant was that there was no difference in improvement among the three groups. In other words, exercise worked just as well as psychotherapy. The researchers also found that the people who kept exercising continued to show improvement at the one, three, six, and nine-month follow-ups.
Exercise Compared to Antidepressant Medication
Antidepressant medication is currently the number-one form of therapy for depression and yet even though more and more antidepressants are being recommended each year, the rate of depression continues to increase and shows no signs of slowing down. More importantly, antidepressants can be expensive and carry unwanted side effects such as dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, and sexual dysfunction.
So how does exercise compare? In a sixteen-week study by James Blumenthal and colleagues at Duke University, participants were assigned to an exercise group, an antidepressant group, or a combination group.
The exercise group exercised for thirty minutes, three times a week, while the medication group received the popular antidepressant Zoloft, and subjects in the exercise/medication group received the same type of medication and performed the same exercise regimen as those in the two other groups.