By Gabe Sanders Ph.D., NSCA-CSCS
Seratonin is a key chemical in the body that works to improve mood, sleep, and other vital functions of the body. Serotonin, or the lack thereof, is a chemical messenger that can influence depression and anxiety.
The most common treatment of choice to help patients experiencing depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are doctor-prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors also known as SSRIs. These drugs are commonly prescribed as anti-depressants. From the start, SSRIs were prescribed to help treat depression, not prolong depression.
Nowadays, people take SSRIs daily and do not seek any additional help designed to treat the root cause of depression. It is important to know that depression, stress, and anxiety cannot be simply cured via modern medicine, but it takes a complete approach, over time to truly achieve lasting improvements in the fight against depression and anxiety.
Exercise is free of charge
While many health experts believe pharmaceutical drugs like SSRIs are overprescribed, fewer physicians and major health governing organizations are promoting additional therapies like exercise and counseling the same way they push SSRI prescriptions.
A simple therapeutic treatment that almost any person can do, free of charge, is exercise. Keep in mind, that physical activity and exercise are just one part of a multi-component treatment plan that can yield long-term success. However, many people do not really know the vast benefits of exercise, especially vigorous intense exercise and activity.
Exercise naturally boosts serotonin levels
When a person engages in a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, especially higher intensity aerobic exercise, their body will experience a rapid increase in serotonin production and then release. The sudden spike in serotonin can improve symptoms associated with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and many more. Absent prescription drugs, exercise is the best way to naturally boost serotonin levels and over time, can drastically improve symptoms associated with depression.
Farris, Samantha G., et al. “Exercise as a nonpharmacological treatment for depression.” Psychiatric Annals 49.1 (2019): 6-10.
Stubbs, Brendon, and Simon Rosenbaum. Exercise-based interventions for mental illness: Physical activity as part of clinical treatment. Academic Press, 2018.
Ashdown-Franks, Garcia, et al. “Exercise as medicine for mental and substance use disorders: a meta-review of the benefits for neuropsychiatric and cognitive outcomes.” Sports Medicine 50.1 (2020): 151-170.
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