When people get depressed, they often fall into a state of distraction, which impairs memory. In addition to the immediate cognitive benefits of physical exercise, remaining active lifts a person’s mood and helps fight depression.
In research conducted at Duke University, depressed patients were given the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) that has been shown to be effective in treating major depression.
But after four months of treatment, the investigators discovered regular exercise was just as effective as the medication for treating symptoms of depression.
Volunteers who exercised 40 minutes three to five days each week enjoyed the greatest improvements in mood.
As noted, when a person exercises, his or her body produces mood-lifting endorphins. Exercise also releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, which has been found to be at low levels in the brains of depressed patients.
This is the same brain messenger that gets elevated by SSRI antidepressants, such as Zoloft and Prozac (fluoxetine).
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