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Kari Rangel
Sean M. George
ENG 1010D.03
6 November 2015

Can Exercise Fight Depression?

There comes a time in everyones life when they need to re-evaluate what happiness
means to them. Unfortunately for me, this did not happen until just recently. I have experienced
a few life changing events in the past 13 years, and they have all played a part in creating my
recipe for happiness. During some of these times, I couldnt smile, I felt tired and sad, and that
crippled my self-worth. However, Ive finally figured out what gives me peace, and genuine
happiness. Not just time to time, but every day, all day, no matter what life hands me. Today, I
follow a short and simple recipe for daily happiness and like any recipe, there are ingredients you
cannot omit or else it doesnt work. The most important ingredient is exercise. In this essay, Ive
gathered several studies proving that exercise can increase endorphins, which make you feel
good; several exercise programs that are accessible; and interventions exist but they are not the
only way to treat depression.

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Endorphins

As Dr. Gray puts it, Endorphins are from heaven. Endorphins are produced by the
nervous system and their job is to aware the body of pain. They also bring feelings of euphoria.
In his book The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution he tells it like this: When the
brain does not produce enough endorphins, the normal stresses of life become unbearable (103).
This is common with so many of us. How can we create these endorphins to gain this euphoria
he talks about? Exercising is a great way to produce endorphins. Strangely, Dr. Gray says, the
more you hurt yourself [from physical fitness], the more pleasure, power, strength, and
exhilaration you feel (95). A new mother who carries extra weight feels depressed because she
cant get away from her newborn baby. A receptionist may feel depressed because shes sitting at
a desk all day. Dr. Gray adds endorphins are the bodys first line of defense against physical,
emotional, and mental stress (98). With daily exercise, the new mother and receptionist will get
the endorphins they need to get through the day to make them feel good.

Programs to Follow

There are countless programs for people seeking physical and mental health. They come
from multi-level marketing companies, such as Beachbody, Herbalife, and AdvoCare. There are
programs that specialize in diet and weight-loss like Jenny Craig and Nutri-System. Other
programs vary from personal trainers, to the latest and greatest exercise phase such as Zumba or
indoor cycling. There are several programs and activities that claim they are the one to help with

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set goals, yet studies show it doesnt matter what the exercise is, just so long as the exercise is
happening. Dr. Marie-Annette Brown PhD., R.N. created a formula to living the best life to beat
depression. In her book When Your Body gets the Blues: The Clinically Proven Program for
Women Who Feel Tired and Stressed and Eat too Much, focuses on three components to
eliminate depression symptoms; sunlight, exercise, and six essential vitamins. In fact, there have
been studies proving that these three components relieve some aspects of the body blues.
Light increases energy, brightens mood, relieves sleep problems, and
reduces appetite. Moderate to intense exercises gives all these benefits,
plus lowers anxiety, tones muscles, burns excess fat, and calories, buffers
the effects of stress, and gives a sense of pride and accomplishment.
(144)

The six essential vitamins are a combination that is primarily set up for women; [this
cocktail of essential vitamins] gives you raw ingredients you need to make the mood-enhancing
chemicals triggered by bright light and exercise (144). Dr. Brown calls this formula The
LEVITY Program, The Drug-Free Solution to the Body Blues. Her program targets women
experiencing mild to moderate depression symptoms. Women who seek motivation may not want
to adhere to medication for their solution. Just like any program, there needs to be a pattern of
consistency for it to work. When exercise is consistent, daily life is better. Sleep patterns will
improve, and when its time to choose a meal, most likely, the choice will be for healthy nutrient
dense foods.

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Interventions

Medication is an easy fix for depression, and unfortunately society is all about the easy
quick fix. In the article Exercise as an Intervention Depends on Both Clinician and Patient
Acceptance, Ali Weinstein writes;
Despite the fact that this review confirms that current work presents
valid and quality studies showing that physical exercise has a mood
enhancing effect on individuals with depression, exercise has not been
routinely prescribed for depression and is not considered a primary
treatment option. (par.2)

There are several reasons why exercise is not prescribed as a treatment, and as Weinstein
explains; the most important reason may be that clinicians, themselves, do not agree that
exercise is effective for treating depression (par. 2). Taking a pill once or twice a day may seem
easier than thinking of a type of exercise to do, then executing it. Other reasons clinicians do not
prescribe exercise as a treatment is explained as,
Patients with depression will undoubtedly struggle with the adherence to
physical exercise. Even physically and emotionally stable individuals
struggle with adherence to physical exercise programs, with studies
suggesting that less than fifty percent of those who start a physical
exercise program are still engaging in the exercise program beyond six
months. (par. 5)

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In other words, daily exercise is hard for everyone, no matter their physical and
emotional status. Studies show that any movement is good movement, whether its an aerobic
activity, anaerobic (such as sprinting, or high intensity interval training), to strength and
resistance training. Clinicians feel that since they, themselves, are not formally trained to
implement a physical exercise program to their patients, it cannot be a valid source of treating
depression. There are many reasons the adherence to exercise shows inconsistency; one issue
shows evidence that in reaction to acute exercise, individuals with depression will not have the
typical post-exercise mood enhancement (par. 4). Some individuals hear only great things
about exercise but then experience soreness and immediately feel discouraged, and then they
quit. A lot of people expect unrealistic results. Just like fat loss and muscle gain take a
considerable amount of time, so does the application of exercise to ones daily routine. Hard
work and dedication is not easy, but once results are present, soon after, the determination and
drive take over.

Progress Not Perfection


Thankfully, there is no need to cause stress and choose an exercise program that some
would otherwise see as unpleasant. In The Whole Mind: The Definitive Guide to
Complementary Treatments for Mind, Mood, and Emotion Dr. Lynette Bassman, Ph.D. explains
it like this; Your exercise plan need not be overly ambitious or vigorous in order to be effective
in providing health benefits. Enjoyment of the activity is more important than intensity (247).
As a fitness instructor, I hear a lot of negativity and comparison when it comes to whats the
better exercise. Unfortunately these people are uninformed and causing more damage than they
realize. The majority of the population is not set out to be competitive body builders, which in

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itself, is a whole other topic. Most of us live life day to day, in hopes to be happy. Leo Widrich
writes the most important part to uncover now is, of course, how we can trigger this [exercise]
in an optimal and longer lasting way, (par. 10) in his article What Happens to Our Brains When
we Exercise and How it Makes us Happier. Throughout my fitness career, timing is one of the
biggest excuses I hear. People do not have the time; rather, they dont make the time to exercise.
If I were to use that excuse, it means exercising is simply not a priority; therefore I dont have
time for it.
Last year, my family moved out of state to what we called a dream location. We wanted
to start over, learn a new culture, experience a different climate, and meet new people.
Unexpectedly, this move brought on serious depression, and anxiety. My husband stayed behind
to run our business, and I was enrolling our children in school and getting settled in a very old
rental home. We moved to the Oregon Coast where the weather cool and cloudy. The trees were
in abundance, and the beach was twelve minutes from our rental. We considered it to be our
dream, but it became my hell. After getting settled, exercising sounded miserable. It was cold,
dreary and the outdoors never welcomed me. I became sedentary, and depressed. Ronald C.
Kessler examined that there is a consistently documented association between exposure to
stressful life events and subsequent onset of episodes of major depression (par. 5) in his article
The Effects of Stressful Life Events on Depression. In a matter of only five months I had
drastically altered who I was with depression that we could no longer live in the environment we
once thought was our dream. Upon moving back into our house that fortunately never sold, I felt
the sunshine of the desert, and slipped right back into my normal life routine, including the gym,
and outdoor hikes I found happiness once again. While reflecting on the times I felt the most
depressed in my life, I noticed exercise was not a part of my day. I now know what I need to feel

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happy; sunshine, my family, healthy nutrition and exercise. Everyone will have a different
equation, and thats whats most important. People ask me all the time how I can exercise so
early in the morning and my answer is never, because its easy. My answer is because its a
non-negotiable part of my day that gives me energy, helps with focus, allows for mindful,
positivity and restful sleep. Finding the ideal time and place takes time, and certainly does not
come easy, but since when do amazing, and wonderful long lasting feelings come easy?

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Works Cited

Bassman, Lynette PhD. The Whole Mind: The Definitive Guide to Complementary
Treatments for Mind, Mood, and Emotion. 1st Ed. Novato, CA.: New
World Library, 1998. Print.
Brown, Marie-Annette PhD., Robinson, Jo. When Your Body gets the Blues: The
Clinically Proven Program for Women who Feel Tired and Stressed and
Eat too Much. 1st Ed. Binghampton: Rodale, 2001. Print.
Gray, John PhD. The Mars and Venus Diet and Exercise Solution. 1st Ed. New
York: St. Martins Press, 2003. Print.
Kessler, Ronald C. The Effects of Stressful Life Events on Depression. Annual Review
of Psychology Vol. 48 Issue 1 (1997): 191. Academic Premier Search.
Web. 30

Oct. 2015.

Weinstein, Ali A. Exercise as an Intervention Depends on Both Clinician and Patient


Acceptance. Physical Therapy Reviews. Vol. 17 Issue 2 (2012): 136-137.
Academic Search Premier. Web. 10/27/15
Widrich, Leo. What Happens to our Brains When we Exercise and How it Makes us
Happier. fastcompany.com. 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.