Exercise Can Help Depression

Getting active may help improve your mental health

We all know regular exercise has great physical benefits, but it can have tremendous positive effects on our mental well-being, too.
Many researchers have studied exercise’s effect on the brain. Scientists hypothesize that it can increase levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, namely beta-endorphins and serotonin. Beta-endorphins are part of the mood regulating chemicals that reduce pain and can induce a state of euphoria known as “runner’s high.” Serotonin helps the brain maintain a stabilized mood and supports good sleep patterns.

Benefits of exercise
There are three basic theories as to other reasons why exercise may alleviate depression symptoms, said Ty Tims, CSCS, MES, medical exercise specialist, Baptist Memorial Health Care.

  • Self-efficacy: “Just motivating yourself to exercise improves your self-esteem,” Tims said.
  • Mastery: If you can master a part of your life and make positive changes, that accomplishment gives you a sense of control. You can choose when, where, how and why you exercise.
  • Distraction: When you exercise, it distracts your body and mind from pain. You are doing something positive for your body. It can help you put problems in perspective.

Exercise also has other wonderful benefits. It:

  • Decreases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Reduces the effects of aging.
  • Increases energy level.
  • Improves sleep.

Before beginning any exercise program you should get a checkup with your physician and talk to your doctor about your planned exercise program, Tims said. Your doctor will consider your physical condition, medications, and other issues that may affect your exercise routine.

Then you should talk to an exercise expert to help you create an exercise plan. Ask for references from friends. Check the credentials of professionals. The American College of Sports Medicine, National Strength and Conditioning Association and the National Academy of Sports Medicine all have certification programs for health and fitness professionals. You can locate certified exercise professionals in your area by visiting these sites. (Tims’ certifications are from the NSCA and the American Academy of Health, Fitness, and Rehabilitation Professionals.)

How much do I need to exercise?

Guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • Exercise 3-5 days a week.
  • Warm up 5-10 minutes before aerobic activity.
  • Maintain your exercise intensity for 30-45 minutes.
  • Gradually decrease the intensity of your workout, then stretch to cool down during the last 5-10 minutes.

If you suffer from depression, exercise may alleviate some symptoms. However, it will not cure your condition particularly if you have more serious form of depression. Depression is an illness that requires treatment. Please seek medical help from your physician or a licensed counselor.

Published: Feb. 11, 2005
Source: Ty Tims, medical exercise specialist, Baptist Memorial Health Care; American Academy of Sports Medicine; Vanderbilt University
Writer: Beth Bartholomew, MA, APR

Time to Spring Forward: How Daylight Saving Time Affects Your Health

Not looking forward to losing an hour of sleep this weekend? Join the club. According to a recent survey by Sleepy’s, one-third of Americans say they “dread” having to turn the clock forward for Daylight Saving Time.

“The effect of DST on the brain can affect people differently,” says Dwayne Godwin, Ph.D. professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. “Some people are able to take it in stride, and in today’s busy world, an hour of sleep loss can be absorbed, once our biological clock adapts to the new rhythm. But for some people who have insomnia or are otherwise sensitive to changes in their sleep regimen, the effects of DST can be profound and extend for weeks.”

We talked to experts to find out the health pros and cons of DST — and what you can do to wake up feeling fresh on Monday morning.

* According to Godwin, studies have shown that DST causes shifts in daily patterns of activity, with a tendency for activity to be extended to later in the day, when there’s more available light. This means we’re more active and generally more likely to exercise — which is obviously a very good thing.
* Some studies on the prevalence of depression have suggested reduced incidence of the blues in communities with a later sunrise, according to Godwin. “But it’s not clear whether it’s just the extra sunshine, or the things we do under the sun when we have more of it.” Either way, it’s a plus!
* Getting up for work is a bit easier. According to Tracey Marks, MD, author of Master Your Sleep: Proven Methods Simplified, when we see light, we stop producing melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our sleep.
* Changing the clocks can serve as a twice-yearly reminder to check the safety equipment in your house — including changing the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and updating or making a home disaster kit, according to Aaron Kalinowski, MD, a primary care physician at Wishard Health Services in Indianapolis.
* Sleep deprivation is most likely the cause of a 17 percent increase in accidents after the spring change, according to Select Comfort, makers of the Sleep Number bed. Be careful –especially if you spend a lot of time on the road or have a job that puts you in physically precarious situations.
* There is a 5 percent increase in heart attacks the first week after the time change — it’s unclear why, exactly. But messed-up sleep patterns could play a part.
* Our exposure to sunlight later in the day (and the resulting urge to engage in physical activity close to bedtime) can delay the production of the sleepy-time hormone melatonin, making it more difficult to chill out and get in snooze-mode at night.
To ease into DST, follow these tips from Nidhi Undevia, medical director of the Sleep Program at Loyola University Health System:
1. In the days before the time change, go to bed and wake up 15 minutes earlier each day.
2. Don’t nap on the Saturday before the time change
3. To help reset your internal body clock, expose yourself to sunlight in the morning as early as you can.
Happy weekend — even if it is an hour shorter!
Source: Self Magazine online, March 2011

Whether You’re 5 or 95 – Exercise Is Important

Regular exercise improves health, slows the effects of aging.

Gerry Burditt, 64, took action when she was diagnosed with osteoporosis about three years ago.

She was inspired by former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, 70, who was diagnosed with osteopenia, an early stage of osteoporosis, in 1996. Richards had suspected she had the disease, which is characterized by low bone mass and structural deterioration of bone tissue, leading to bone fragility and an increased susceptibility to fractures of the hip, spine, and wrist. Her mother had suffered from the disease and Richards wanted to know if she had it. Once Richards found out she had the disease, she immediately made changes to improve her health. She started lifting weights and working out in a gym. Then she crisscrossed the nation telling her story and raising awareness about osteoporosis. Her book about her struggle, I’m Not Giving Up, was published in 2003.

After Burditt was diagnosed, she called Baptist Rehabilitation in Cordova and asked for help to develop a fitness plan. That was two years ago. Ever since, she has exercised at the facility every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for one hour each session. Her workout consists of cardiovascular exercise, upper and lower body strength training, and balance and coordination work.

Burditt had always lived an active life — raising three boys, helping her husband operate their business, working actively in her yard, and volunteering in the community. But she had never exercised on a consistent, regular basis.

“I always felt I didn’t have time,” Burditt said. “Now I treat my workouts like a job. I never miss unless I am out of town.”

When she started going to Baptist Rehabilitation, she thought she was in great shape. She soon found she had balance problems and her cardiovascular fitness and body strength needed work as well. But Burditt never gave up and her perseverance has paid off. Medical tests show her bone density has significantly increased. She is building bone rather than losing it. Her story proves it is never too late to start a regular exercise routine.

“Everybody needs to try this,” Burditt said. “They (Baptist Rehabilitation) opened my eyes.”

Age should not be a limiting factor for beginning an exercise program. Every person, but particularly those 60 and older, should have a check-up with a physician before starting an exercise program. The doctor will consider any health problems, medications, or other conditions that may determine what type of exercise program is best.

The American Heart Association recommends that even moderate amounts of physical acitivity can have significant health benefits for older adults. For older adults, this moderate amount of activity can come from:

  • Longer sessions of moderately intense activities such as walking or swimming.
  • Shorter sessions of more vigorous activities such as fast walking or stair climbing.
  • Greater amounts of physical activity (longer duration, higher intensity or more frequent) can bring additional benefits. But it should not be done excessively, or injury may result.

Muscle-strengthening exercises are important, too. As people age, they begin to lose bone and muscle mass, which accelerates considerably after age 50. In older adults, muscle-strengthening exercises should focus on multi-joint or “full-body” exercises – those that use different muscle groups rather than focusing on one.

Benefits of strength training also include improved bone health and reductions in risk for osteoporosis, improved posture, reduced risk of falling, increased flexibility and range of motion, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. This type of exercise also improves the ability to perform daily tasks. The loss of strength and stamina attributed to aging is due, in part, to reduced physical activity.
Burditt said she benefited from having a trained professional design her program and work with her during each session. The staff was a constant source of encouragement, she said. “I couldn’t do this by myself. I need the support and encouragement. The staff is very caring. I can’t say enough about them.”

Baptist Rehabilitation has several fitness programs. You can meet with a specialist at its facility in Cordova for a fee which includes 12 sessions. Baptist Rehabilitation-Germantown offers several types of classes, including Tai Chi, Pilates, osteoporosis fitness, and aquatics. For more information, please call (901) 624-8672.

Published: October 31, 2005
Source: Baptist Rehabiliation; Gerry Burditt; American Heart Association; American College of Sports Medicine
Writer: Writer: Elizabeth Todd Bartholomew, MA, APR

5 Steps to Loving Exercise … Or At Least Not Hating It

We all know the benefits of regular physical activity – increased energy, better cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke and looking more svelte.

But 80 percent of Americans don’t make exercise a regular habit, and, according to a recent American Heart Association website survey, 14 percent say they don’t like exercise.

So how do you overcome an exercise aversion? Mercedes Carnethon, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, has some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your life – and maybe even learn to like it.

Exercise That Suits You
Find an exercise that best fits your personality, Dr. Carnethon said. If you are social person, do something that engages you socially – take a group exercise class, join a kickball team or walk with a group of friends. Or, if you prefer having time alone, walking or jogging solo might be a better fit for you. MyWalkingClub.org is the perfect way to connect with others who share your goals, lifestyles, schedules and hobbies.

Try some of these ideas to help you get moving – at home, at work or at play.

Make it a Habit
It takes about three weeks for something to become a habit, so give yourself the time to create a regular routine. One way is to try to exercise around the same time each day.
“Exercise can become addictive in a positive way,” said Dr. Carnethon, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. “Once it becomes a habit, you’ll notice when you aren’t doing something.”

Build Exercise Into Your Lifestyle
Be honest with yourself. If you don’t live close to a gym, it’s not going to become a habit for you. Likewise, if you are not a morning person, don’t plan on somehow getting up at the crack of dawn to make a boot camp class.

“The key is building activity into your lifestyle so it is not disruptive,” Dr. Carnethon said.

There are many ways to fit exercise into your life, and it doesn’t mean you have to make a big financial investment.

You can borrow exercise videos from the library or DVR an exercise program. Do weight or resistance training with items around your home (for example, use canned goods as light weights). Walking is great option, as well. The only investment is a good pair of shoes.

Do Bouts of Exercise
It’s OK to break up your physical activity into smaller segments, Dr. Carnethon said. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day of exercise most days, but if that sounds overwhelming, try three 10-minute workout sessions.

You could do a quick calisthenics routine when you wake up, take a brief walk after lunch at work and, if you commute with public transportation, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.

Keep Going
If you miss a day or a workout, don’t worry about it. Everybody struggles once in a while. Just make sure you get back at it the next day.

“It doesn’t take too long to get back on track,” Dr. Carnethon said. “It’s easy to make something a habit again. You will see same benefits before. Any little bit you can fit in will show benefits.”

Borrowed from American Heart Association

Smart Substitutions for Healthy Cooking

You can make many of your favorite recipes healthier by using lower-fat or no-fat ingredients.  These healthy substitutions can help you cut down on saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, while noticing little, if any, difference in taste.

Borrowed from American Heart Association

When recipe calls for  . . . Use this instead  …
Whole milk (1 cup) 1 cup fat-free or low-fat milk, plus one tablespoon of liquid vegetable oil
Heavy cream (1 cup) 1 cup evaporated skim milk or 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup plain low-fat unsalted cottage cheese
Sour cream Low-fat unsalted cottage cheese plus low-fat or fat-free yogurt; or just use fat-free sour cream
Cream cheese 4 tablespoons soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) blended with 1 cup dry, unsalted low-fat cottage cheese; add a small amount of fat-free milk if needed
Butter (1 tablespoon) 1 tablespoon soft margarine (low in saturated fat and 0 grams trans fat) or 3/4 tablespoon liquid vegetable oil
Egg (1) 2 egg whites; or choose a commercially made, cholesterol-free egg substitute (1/4 cup)
Unsweetened baking chocolate (1 ounce) 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder or carob powder plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or soft margarine; since carob is sweeter than cocoa, reduce the sugar in the recipe by 25%

Protect Your Health, Protect Your Brain


The American Heart Association says what helps your heart can help your brain, too. Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of having a stroke, and it can also make a big difference in your mental abilities as you age.