Dec. 25, 2000 -- Claire Urmson began strength training several years
ago to recover from an accident. To her surprise, the improvement she felt went
far beyond her immediate physical problem. "I'm not somebody who loves
exercise," says Urmson, 66. "But I really love the way it makes me
We love our vacations -- those great escapes from the humdrum and the
hassles. But if you're depressed, the annual vacation may seem like yet another
obstacle -- especially with soaring gas prices and an unstable economy.
Vacation depression is a fact of life for many people.
You feel guilty spending the money -- and pushing yourself to plan the trip
becomes a burden. Every flat tire, delayed flight, and tantrum (child or
adult) is simply draining. When your vacation ends, there's the depressing
Indeed, a recent Finnish study joins a growing body of research
in suggesting that exercise can have strong psychological benefits. Scientists
surveyed 663 people in Finland, ages 65 and older, in 1988 and again in 1996.
Over time, the intensity of physical exercise (defined in three categories:
doing necessary chores, walking regularly, and exercising strenuously, in order
of increasing difficulty) decreased with age, and this decrease was associated
with developing more symptoms of depression. The
researchers therefore concluded that a reduction in exercise increased the risk
of depression in older adults.
The study did have limitations. For instance, circumstances
that impeded exercise could in and of themselves be depressing, the researchers
said. But many experts believe that exercise has a direct impact on depression
-- and not just in older people.
"The findings are the same in elderly people as in younger
people: Exercise tends to lower depression" and anxiety, says Daniel
Landers, PhD, regent's professor in the department of exercise science and
physical education at Arizona State University.
Some scientists believe that exercise may increase the
concentrations in the bloodstream (and therefore the brain) of the
neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine, as do certain antidepressant drugs. Indeed, in
a recent study of clinically depressed 50- to 77-year-olds at Duke University
Medical Center, researchers found that performing regular exercise compared
favorably in reducing depression over a 16-week period both with taking the
antidepressant Zoloft (a commonly prescribed serotonin reuptake inhibitor), and
with the combination of taking the drug and exercising.
Six months after the Duke study ended, the researchers
completed a second round of interviews with the subjects to find out how they
were faring. Remarkably, the scientists found that the subjects who were in the
exercise-only group were far less likely to relapse into a major depression than either the
group who had been on medication, or those who had combined medication with