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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Physical activities like cycling can improve health and may even help with depression

Physical activities like cycling can improve health and may even help with depression
By:  Michael Lander


Physical activities, such as cycling, may be one of the best ways to
improve health and well-being and, according to experts, it could
be an effective way to treat or to ward off the effects of

Can physical activities like cycling actually help in the fight against depression?  Some in the medical community appear to think so and there seems to be some pretty strong evidence that suggests that it just might be one way to help combat it.

For many years now, cycling advocates have touted the health benefits of cycling, but they have, for the most part, overlooked the positive effect that it can have on the mind.

Mallory Atkinson and Lynn Weigand, Ph.D, in a June 2008 review of literature, entitled, “The Mental Health Benefits of Walking and Bicycling,” cited a considerable amount of research that has demonstrated a clear and convincing correlation between physical activities, such as cycling, and the lessening of symptoms associated with depression.

One of the sources that Atkinson and Weigand referred to in their review was the research conducted by Catherine Ross, and Diane Hayes that appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1988, entitled, "Exercise and psychologic well-being in the community."

Ross and Hayes came across multiple studies that revealed a definitive connection between physical activity or exercise and the alleviation of symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

James Blumenthal and Michael Babyak further corroborated these findings in 1999 in their Archives of Internal Medicine article, “Efforts of exercise training on older patients with major depression.”  In their research, they found that an exercise training program is as effective as a standard antidepressant therapy in reducing depression among those who’ve been diagnosed with a major depressive disorder.

In an article, entitled “Your Brain on Bicycling,” by Selene Yeager, Blumenthal, who was a professor of behavioral medicine in the psychiatry and behavioral department at Duke University, was quoted as saying that "exercise works as well as psychotherapy and antidepressants in the treatment of depression, maybe better."

Christine Mattheis, in her article, “Your Brain on Cycling - Three ways your brain benefits from riding your bike,” wrote about research that has consistently shown that vigorous exercise is so effective at helping some patients to overcome anxiety and depression that they have been able to reduce or eliminate the use of medications such as Prozac and Zoloft.

The Mayo Clinic has further substantiated this medical phenomenon while offering an explanation for how and why it occurs.

In an article entitled, “Depression and anxiety: Exercise eases symptoms,” by the Mayo Clinic staff, exercising (like with cycling) can help to not only improve a wide array of health problems, but research, it says, has shown that it can have a psychological benefit that can help reduce anxiety, make you feel better, and it can improve your overall mood.

For many reasons, cycling can be good for both the body and mind
and being outdoors, and in the sunshine, has been found to have a
positive impact on a person's mood and their happiness.

Best of all, it seems that the side effects of exercise may be long-lasting and that it can keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you begin feeling better.

How exactly cycling, and other similar physical activities, can help with depression has a lot to do with the impact that it has on both the mind and body.  Whenever you vigorously ride your bike or exert yourself in a comparable way, neurotransmitters, endorphins, and endocannabinoids are released, which can act as an analgesic for pain while simultaneously amplifying a feeling of euphoria, which can leave you with a positive feeling and help ease depression.

Frequent exercise helps to further reinforce these chemical releases into the brain and, according to the Mayo Clinic staff, it can help someone to build confidence, to take their mind off their worries, it offers an opportunity for more social interaction, and a healthy way to cope with one’s problems.

While cycling, or any other form of exercise may not be a cure-all for depression in everyone, it does seem to offer a possible way to relieve some of the symptoms of depression, which of course, could be additionally treated with medication, if necessary.

Even though various types of exercise may yield a similarly positive effect for those who are clinically depressed, what makes cycling distinctively unique is that it takes you outside where you can enjoy the sunshine and take in some fresh air.

Research studies, like those recently conducted by the United Arab Emirates, has shown a strong link between positive moods and happiness with time spent outdoors in the sunlight.

One unequivocal advantage that cycling has over other outside physical activities, like walking or running, is that it often allows a person to see more and go further, in the same amount of time, than you might otherwise get on a walk or run.

It is also something that can be done alone or with friends on a group ride or at one of many cycling events that take place, at least in and around Memphis, throughout most of the year.

It would seem that physical activities, especially those like cycling, can improve, not only one’s health, but it seems to be able to help ease the effects of depression so it is not only good for the body, but it is equally good for the mind.

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