Depression & Exercise
Between 5% - 10% of older adults exhibit symptoms of moderate to major depression. Caring for someone with depression can be very difficult for the caregiver. Additionally, having a major depressive disorder (MDD) has been associated with a 59% increase in mortality risk. There are medications that can help with symptoms, but there are many reasons that other strategies are desirable.
Exercise is an option that has been proven in multiple research studies to decrease depressive symptoms on standardized depression tests. Exercise not only alleviated symptoms in many individuals (68%), it also prevented the development of symptoms in others.
Mood has been shown to be tied to activity. Even minimal activity has been associated with improved mood in older adults. Younger individuals need more rigorous activity for longer duration to achieve reduction in symptoms of depression.
Pessimism, low energy and physical limitations present barriers to exercise for many people and these problems are more prevalent in older adults, however, even very modest exercise, particularly in group settings, has been shown to have success in reducing symptoms of depression and these improvements last long after formal exercise programs have ended.
If you are caring for someone with depressive symptoms get them to exercise. Even if they aren’t convinced of the benefit and resist a formal program, try to get them moving in a home-based program. As their mood improves, the time may be right to get them into a group exercise program. The improvement in symptoms of depression and the combined socialization benefits can really help improve the well-being of your loved one…and you.