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Jog Your Way To Joy: Running Proves As Potent As Drugs In Depression Therapy.

The 36th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology was held in Barcelona, Spain last week. As expected, it has led to some groundbreaking revelations that could change the way depression and other mental health diseases are being treated. The paper presented by Vrije University of Amsterdam stresses how running can be used as a tool to treat depression.

According to the researchers, “ This study, however, showed that running therapy can reduce depressive symptoms, at least in some depressed persons. The effects on mental health outcomes were rather comparable to that seen in the group that used antidepressants.” Depression is a condition where one’s moods are affected.

Running Is Effective For Treating Depression

The American Psychiatric Association states that it could also be attributed to a feeling of sadness and loss of normal functioning.

The symptoms could vary from weight alterations to loss of vitality to physically harming thoughts. It could also hamper your ability to make conscious decisions and cognitive intelligence. Many people often confuse depression with grief. “In grief, painful feelings come in waves, often intermixed with positive memories of the deceased. In major depression, mood and/or interest (pleasure) are decreased for most of the two weeks.” 

Running Is Effective For  Depression

There could be multiple reasons why one could be diagnosed with depression. The National Institute of Mental Health suggests, “that genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors play a role in depression.” Over 21 Million people are depressed in America alone and can be differentiated as clinical depression, persistent depressive disorder, post-partum depression, seasonal affective disorder, and Premenstrual dysmorphic syndrome. Though the time periods could be varied, all of this could manifest in different forms.

During the study, 141 people were monitored closely who chose either medication or either running therapy. With a ratio of 45 to 96 for medication and running, they were observed for 16 weeks. When it comes to medications, SSRIs or uptake inhibitors are the best choice.

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The dosage could be varied according to the patient’s needs and tolerance level. In the study, the group was given Escitalopram(10 mg) and was monitored by a therapist who also alternatively provided Zoloft. SSRIs are known to work the brain by increasing the production of Serotonin or happy hormones. While the neurons absorb the serotonin faster in a depressed person, SSRIs block it for a long period of time and therefore stop their mood from fluctuating frequently.

The patients who chose running were subjected to 45 minutes of sessions.  Running is also known to release endorphins that one might need to elevate one’s mood as does any general exercise. Studies have also shown lesser stress levels in people who run frequently than those who don’t. So what results did the study show?

The study clearly stated that while change in mental health remained the same at over 44%, physical health showed a myriad of changes. “When it came to physical health, however, changes were more favorable among the runners, who saw a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure, and waist circumference and an increase in lung function.

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The antidepressant group experienced signs of physical decline, with weight, blood pressure, and triglycerides increasing, and heart rate variability decreasing” as per the lead researcher which is a “considerable” change.” However, the study didn’t come without its own set of challenges.

Over 82% followed their medication schedule while only 42 % followed up with running. Doctors believe that this could be due to the fact that depression can kill your ability to function or be interested in regular activities. Moreover, habits need a follow-up for at least 21 days to form while medications are comparatively “easier” to digest.  The lead researcher ultimately opined, “Antidepressants work for most people — we know that not treating depression at all leads to worse outcomes; so antidepressants are generally a good choice.”

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