Why Exercise Can Be A Serious Mood Booster For People With Major Depressive Disorder

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Exercising has been shown to significantly improve mood in patients with severe depressive illness. Even a half-hour of exercise a week may help prevent future bouts. Many persons with depression are surprised that little is understood about the direct impact of exercise on particular aspects of their mood and mental state during and immediately after a workout.

Symptoms of long-term depression include more than simply a general sense of sadness. Anhedonia is a common sign of depression, and it is characterized by a lack of pleasure and satisfaction. In addition, because of the disorder’s link to diminished cognitive abilities, such as memory problems and information processing, activity may be beneficial.

Thirty participants were tested beforehand, throughout, and then after either an aggressive half-hour bicycling exercise or an hour of peaceful rest to better understand how a workout affects mood and emotional ability changes.

Anhedonia was assessed using a scale and a survey, and numerous cognitive tests, such as the Stroop color and word test, were also administered. Participants reported an uptick in mood about the midway point of the exercise, which was maintained for a minimum of 75 minutes just after the session concluded.

Anhedonia had also subsided by 75 minutes after the activity but was beginning to return. Even so, it was still an improvement over those who had only relaxed.

The differences in cognitive abilities were maybe the most startling aspect of the study. Results in this study were inconsistent with prior observations on healthy humans, which expected an overall improvement in response times.

Participants’ Stroop test performance improved modestly with physical activity. However, once they had ceased exercising, this decreased by 25 and 50 minutes, making them slower than others who hadn’t exercised. Even if there is a relationship between this and other severe depressive illness symptoms, we don’t know why.

Depressed people may be encouraged to exercise more if they know that physical activity improves their mood and sense of well-being immediately.

This study was published in Psychology of Sport and Exercise.

William Reid
A science writer through and through, William Reid’s first starting working on offline local newspapers. An obsessive fascination with all things science/health blossomed from a hobby into a career. Before hopping over to Optic Flux, William worked as a freelancer for many online tech publications including ScienceWorld, JoyStiq and Digg. William serves as our lead science and health reporter.