Washington Post: This no mess approach to fighting depression may work

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Funnel Cloud, Minnesota
Photograph by Mitch Dobrowner
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By Nancy Szokan:  February 15, 2016;
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It’s well known that physical activity is a mood elevator. But writing in “The Athlete’s Way” blog on Psychology Today’s website, endurance athlete Christopher Bergland discusses a study indicating that combining movement with the attention-focusing benefits of meditation can be an extra-effective tool in fighting depression.
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The small study, conducted at Rutgers University in New Jersey, was based on a set of assumptions: Healthy brains are constantly producing neurons.
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Brains of people under stress or suffering depression produce fewer neurons.
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Physical activity increases neuron production, as do antidepressant medications.
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(Meanwhile, a certain number of newborn neurons die off.)
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Mental exercise — “effortful learning,” which requires focus — reduces those deaths. People with depression often have problems with focus.
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The researchers tested a novel intervention — it’s called MAP because it involves mental and physical training — aimed at both increasing neuron production and keeping those neurons alive.
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Fifty-two people completed the study — 22 with major depressive disorder, or MDD, and 30 who were not depressed.
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Twice a week, they performed 30 minutes of meditation during which they were directed to constantly focus on their breathing; they began each session seated, but for the last 10 minutes they meditated while walking slowly.
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Then they performed 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on a treadmill or stationary cycle.
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After eight weeks, the researchers found that the MDD patients’ depressive symptoms had been reduced by 40 percent. (The non-depressed participants also said they felt happier.)
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“Although previous research has supported the individual beneficial effects of aerobic exercise and meditation for depression,” the researchers wrote, “these findings indicate that a combination of the two may be particularly effective.”
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Or, as Bergland puts it, it’s a “double whammy” against depression, And the best part is, both aerobic exercise and meditation are universally available, nonpharmaceutical and free.
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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Jennifer on February 21, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Spot on. . Not just for weight control, but for mindfulness. A healthy body,= a healthy mind and spirit. I feel empowered and strong, physically and mentally after working out at the gym. Women need to be concerned about brittle bones as we age. The best defense is using light weights. I started using 20 lb resistant weights and now am up to 50 lbs. Stretching your muscles takes away all the tension in your body. It is NEVER to late to start – meditation or fitness. Just make the effort.

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