Train Your Brain With Exercise
Not only is exercise smart for your heart and weight, but it can make you smarter and better at what you do.
Effects of Exercise on Depression
Almost everyone has heard of the "fog of war," but the
"fog of living" is depression. "Depression affects memory and
effectiveness (not to mention the ability to get up, get dressed, and
function)," Anderson says. "If you can control your physiology, you can
relax, focus, and remember."
In a study reported in the Journal of Sports Medicine and
Physical Fitness in 2001, 80 young male and female volunteers were tested
for mood and then did aerobics for an hour. Of the 80, 52 were depressed before
the exercise. That group was the most likely to benefit, reporting a reduction
in anger, fatigue, and tension. They also felt more vigorous after the
A well-known study was done at Duke University involving 150
people 50 or older who had been diagnosed with depression. They were divided
into three groups and given either exercise as a treatment for four months, the
antidepressant drug Zoloft, or a combination of the two.
At the end of the four months, all three groups felt better.
But the researchers didn't leave it there. They checked again in six months,
and the exercise group had relapsed at significantly lower rates than the
Zoloft or combination groups. In fact, the scientists felt that giving the
Zoloft along with the exercise undermined the effects of the exercise, saying
the combination group might have preferred to feel they had worked for their
improvement rather than having to take a pill.
This doesn't mean, the researcher said, that exercise is a
cureall for every case of depression. Seeking out the study showed motivation,
and motivation can be hard to come by when you're depressed.
Bipolar disorder also does not seem to respond as well to
exercise. On the other hand, anxiety disorders sometimes respond even more
If You Want to Try Exercise as a Brain Trainer
Single bouts of exercise can reduce anxiety for several hours
afterward, although there may be a lag time before the good feeling sets in if
exercise is too intense (good news for those who find fanatical, prolonged,
"check your pulse" exercise unappealing).