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Depression Health Center

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Help Yourself out of Depression

Experts give advice about steps people can take to help ease their depression.

Walk Away From Depression

Motivation to exercise may be scarce when you're feeling well, let alone when you are depressed, but try to do it anyhow.

"The typical things that we all know are important to taking care of ourselves become that much more important when you're dealing with depression," Browning says.

Exercise is a proven tonic for depression. For decades studies have been showing that aerobic exercise improves mood in people who are depressed.

Researchers recently found that the amount of aerobic exercise recommended by the CDC for general good health -- equivalent to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five days a week -- can bring about big improvements in depression.

The study, published in the January 2005 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine, involved people with mild-to-moderate depression who did various amounts of exercise for 12 weeks. All groups in the study, including those in the control group, who only did stretches, had some improvement, but those who exercised as much as the CDC recommends fared best. In that group, 46% of the people reduced their symptoms by one-half, as rated on a scale of depression severity, and 42% no longer qualified as depressed when the study ended.

It's important to start slowly with exercise. Decide what you can do, and as Aikens suggests, do a little bit less than that. If you think you could manage a 20-minute brisk walk, try 15 minutes first, and don't be discouraged if you don't feel better afterward.

"A person shouldn't have high expectations," Aikens says. "They shouldn't expect to necessarily feel cheerful or completely undepressed after going for a walk."

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