Tag Archives: depression

It’s not too late to celebrate Walktober!

Walking is a great way to be active to help you lose weight, increase your fitness, and improve your health. The most common form of exercise is walking, and for good reason: it doesn’t require any special equipment (beyond comfortable shoes) or skills, and you can do it almost anywhere.

You can meet basic physical activity recommendations by walking briskly for 30 minutes most days of the week. Even this amount of walking can lead to a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers as well as improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing.

Now that cooler fall weather is finally here, spending time being active outdoors is more enjoyable. That is the spirit of Walktober, an initiative adopted by health organizations, companies, and communities around the globe. October is a great time to take advantage of opportunities to go for a walk!

walk-in-woods


Walking, like any exercise, has substantial health benefits. These benefits are even greater if you are active outdoors. Being active in a natural environment has been shown to have an impact on mental health including enhanced feelings of energy and diminished fatigue, anxiety, anger, and sadness compared to similar activity conducted indoors. Research shows that exercise outdoors leads to physiological changes in brain blood flow that are associated with psychological benefits.

When you go for a walk outdoors you may get a better workout. This is mostly due to the fact that you will likely walk faster outdoors, but other factors like uneven ground and hills add to your effort. The good news is that even though you may exercise at a higher intensity outside, you may feel that your effort is lower than for the same exercise indoors. This is partly because the pleasant visual stimuli outdoors distracts you from sensations of effort during exercise. And much of the psychological benefit of outdoor exercise occurs in the first five minutes, so even short bouts of activity are meaningful.

If you are new to walking for exercise, you can start with 10–15 minute sessions and work up to 30 (or more!) minutes at a time. This can be as simple as going for a short walk outside when you have a break at work or taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood. It’s also a good idea to walk with a friend or in a group, which can provide motivation and accountability. And, of course, it is a great way to spend time together.

If you have been exercising indoors, this is a perfect time to take your activity outdoors. Going for a hike in the woods or a long walk around town can build your endurance, especially if you encounter hills along the way. Running outdoors can break the monotony of the treadmill or other indoor exercise equipment. This might not replace your workouts at the gym, but it can certainly add to your activity.

The best part is that walking outdoors is something the whole family can do. Beyond the health benefits for everyone in your family, it sets an excellent example for your kids (and grandkids). Many experts agree that increasing opportunities for outdoor play and exercise is important for helping children grow up healthy and happy.

Every little bit of activity you do outdoors will have both physical and psychological benefits to help you become and feel healthier. So, get outside and get active this Walktober!

 


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr

Exercise is an effective, but underused, treatment for depression.

You probably know that exercise is good for your physical health. A lower risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers are among a long list of positive health effects of physical activity. Lesser known benefits include improved mental health, cognitive function, and greater feelings of wellbeing. In fact, research shows that exercise is an effective way to prevent and treat depression, which is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Yoga class


Depression has been in the news recently following the release of new guidelines for the screening for depression in all adults, especially women during and after pregnancy. Considering that depression affects almost 15 million American adults and is a leading cause of disability, diagnosing and treating depression should be a priority. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of common depression treatments, including antidepressant medication, is questionable.

It turns out that exercise is an effective, if underused, strategy to treat depression. Exercise itself has been shown to be as effective as some medications for reducing depression symptoms. More commonly, exercise is used in addition to other treatment strategies, including antidepressant medication, increasing the effectiveness of those therapies. One study showed that exercise can reduce depression symptoms after just 10 days, even before many medications are effective.

It appears that both aerobic and resistance training are beneficial. It is also possible that social support experienced through group exercise is important, too. Additionally, where the exercise is conducted matters and exercise outdoors, especially in nature, can be particularly beneficial.

Indeed, activity outdoors leads to enhanced feelings of energy and diminished fatigue, anxiety, anger, and sadness compared to similar activity conducted indoors. In one study, people who walked in a quiet, tree-lined area had greater improvement in mood—they felt happier—than those who walked along a busy street in an urban area. The researchers also completed brain scans to determine that the difference in mood was related to changes in blood flow in the brain. Additionally, some research suggests that outdoor activity may improve attention in adults and children.

The good news is that almost any indoor exercise can be moved outdoors. While walking, running, and cycling are most obvious, resistance training exercises using body weight and many high-intensity interval training workouts can be modified for outdoors. Yoga and aerobics classes in the park are also great ways to promote both the physical and psychological benefits of exercise.

Much of the psychological benefit of outdoor exercise occurs in the first five minutes, so even short bouts of activity are meaningful. It also means that going for a short walk outside when you have a break at work or walking instead of driving short distances can have positive effects. At home, taking the dog for a walk, playing outside with the kids, or doing yard work are good ways to be active and reap the benefits of being outdoors.

Every little bit of activity you do outdoors will have both physical and psychological benefits to help you become and feel healthier. So, get outside and get active!


Nutrition, exercise, and health information can be confusing. 
But it doesn't have to be that way.
What can I help you with?
 drbrianparr@gmail.com | http://twitter.com/drbrianparr