This week’s news about the unexpected tragic death of actor and comedian Robin Williams has brought the issue of depression back into the national spotlight.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. In 2012, an estimated 16 million U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode.

Studies have shown exercise can help ease symptoms of depression. A recent study from the University of Toronto reviewed 26 years of previous studies on exercise and depression. Researchers conclude not only can exercise help treat depression, but moderate exercise can help prevent episodes of depression long term. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine in October 2013.

While the researchers acknowledge many factors including genetic make-up can make some people predisposed to depression, they say exercise should be prescribed for nearly everyone. They recommend people who are already active continue being active and those who are not currently active become active.

More research is needed on the subject, however the Mayo Clinic website reports exercise may help ease depression by:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals – which can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature – producing calming effects

The Mayo Clinic website says performing at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, 3 to 5 days per week, can help ease depression symptoms.

While studies have shown exercise may help offer relief from depression, be sure to work closely with your health care professional to find the course of treatment that is right for you.

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