EXERCISE IS BETTER THAN PILLS FOR DEPRESSION
Like a broken record I’ll say it again you need to exercise…daily. There have been a host of studies that show conclusively that exercise is as good as an antidepressant. Especially for chronic treatment (over 6 months) SSRI’s were no better than daily exercise. Besides if you are off your antidepressant then you do not have to worry about all those pesky side effects: suicide, self flagellation, arson, battery, murder, school shootings, child molestation, interstate prostitution or generalized tom foolery.
In his book The Emperor’s New Drugs, Irving Kirsch dispels the notion that the only “things” available for the treatment of depression are drugs. It turns out, just as I have been saying for years, exercise is extremely useful in treating depression. Kirsch mentions a multitude of studies involving exercise and other modalities or exercise alone. They are all neatly summarized in an official report out of England from 2004. In it the study’s main author Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer, concluded that physical activity can be as effective as psychotherapy or medication in the treatment of depression particularly in the long term. A number of interesting things popped up in these studies: it turns out that exercise is more effective for severe depression than it is for mild, the antidepressant effect will last as long as you keep exercising improving as time passes, surprisingly only twenty minutes three times a week of any type of exercise is all that is needed, and finally exercise can prevent depression as well as ameliorate it. Now here’s where it gets interesting.
A Duke University study led by James Blumenthal in 2000 found that those patients who exercised with an antidepressant as opposed to exercise alone, or drug alone, were at increased risk of becoming depressed again at ten months or longer. In other words having an antidepressant on board decreased your chances of successful recovery. The exercise alone group fared the best of all. They found that exercise prevented them from relapsing into depression again.
Nothing new to me, I am totally not surprised. This dovetails nicely into the “Tardive Dysphoria” theory of chronic antidepressant use that Dr Breggin and others talk about. Kirsch offers some theories as to why the exercise alone group did so much better. Things like an increase in endorphins, the nocebo effect, etc. From a holistic approach, only the exercise group should fare well since this is the only natural non-toxic approach. I know how powerful exercise is on the mind and body. If the effects of exercise could be put into a pill I have always touted that it would be the first trillion dollar pharmaceutical since it corrects so many abnormalities and benefits so many diverse organ systems.
The “well being” effects from exercise are probably from the activation of many pathways not just a single action. It could be any number or combination of factors such as a bolus of growth hormone secreted in the immediate post work out period. The anticipation and the actual participation of a fun workout can lead to the cortical activation of the entire hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-gonadal-axis leading to: surges of testosterone and cortisol along with pituitary-adrenal-axis activation through sympathetic (fight or flight) stimulation. Exercise also causes the release of the famous and well documented endorphins of which there are several each with its own unique ability to make you feel good. And finally there is dopamine release in critical areas of the brain –considered the reward chemical-is another and perhaps the best event that can occur after exercise. Whatever it does to you biochemically I am sure is very complex. In the final analysis all I know is how it pulled my sorry arse out of the campfire more times than I care to mention.
You will hear me say again and again to start up an exercise program. Sure it’s tough to get started especially if you never worked out much in your younger years. The nice thing is that you don’t have to get all Olympic on me right off the bat. You can start out super slow and gradually work your way up. Studies verify that exercise is a better therapy than pills for treating depression and cheaper than psychotherapy. I also imagine it’s faster than either and the most reliable. Look at it another way pills produce nasty side effects some of which should be intolerable for a young person such as retrograde ejaculation, lack of libido, anhedonia, indifference to sex, and impotence. Exercise makes you horny, happy, helps to prevent ED, produces a better body image (real or imagined) and gives you a sense of profound peace and well being. Gee Anaximander which side-effects would you prefer?
For those of you who work out on a daily basis you know exactly what I mean. That’s the reason we are gym-rats. From all the crap that has happened to me over the last 20 years, the literal free fall from grace to the last-straw-breakup with my fiancé of 6 years in 2012, I should be wracked with depression and I suppose I am. Just like in 2005 when my beautiful, mauve colored, husky Sky died I was so sad I didn’t know what to do. She had been with me through the worst of the worst-my buddy. In both cases as soon as the sadness would hit me like a dark pyroclastic wave, I would just start running, running, and running up to 50 miles a week or alternately I did resistance work at my gym-lots of cables flying about!
Guess what? I got through it without a chemical. The exercise took my mind off of my troubles, numbed me from the pain while making me feel good about things; it’s not a cure for despair and sadness but it’s as good as it gets in the treatment of it. Plus it works and it has side benefits. I’m lean and muscular as a consequence and that also goes a long way toward giving you a nice outlook on life. It’s not vanity I’m referring to here it’s the extra feeling of well being that comes from being strong, and in good physical condition. Look at it like this: you can either be fat and depressed or lean and depressed. Which one do you suppose is going to fare better in the long run?
I believe there’s something more to it than just those “feelings” too since we have documented proof that this lifestyle choice does something good for you on a very deep and fundamental level. When people say they “feel” strong and “fit” they are in reality poorly describing the results of a profoundly deep healing process. Add running in the sun without a shirt (well, for guys anyway-you don’t want to cause traffic accidents) and no Timmy you must wear shorts, you get all of the benefits of the sun as well to help you overcome your melancholy.
If you follow my advice you will overcome depression. Besides if you have read anything else on antidepressants you should now realize that you have no alternative. The drugs will only make you worse in the end.
In summary avoid the chemical fix it doesn’t work (any better than placebo) and it may become a new career for you when you try to get off of it. They worsen your condition over time and decrease your chances at full recovery. Exercise with both resistance training and cardiovascular work is far superior. Eat only pure foods, be careful of chemical additives and quit eating grains-use them more as a condiment. Get a tan if you can. I don’t mean looking like George Hamilton or someone that was just napalmed from the sun. Remember those pics from Cabo-all red faced and fried? One more thing, get a pet (no not a moth) a real pet like a dog or cat or ferret or bird. Remember also that dogs are people too so treat your dog (cat, bird, etc) as you would your own child. They make everything possible. They bathe your heart chakra in light-that’s why they are here and that will most assuredly help cure your depression. One last thing be sure to match your dog with your body habitus and lifestyle. In other words if you are fat and lazy, dread exercise, and love TV do not buy a Husky, instead rescue a Bassett hound or a toy breed. You’ll just be putting that poor Husky up for adoption anyway only now she will have a behavior disorder and will end up in one home after another just like my baby Kizzy. I was the 4th family to get her and what a wonderful dog she is. She simply needed the right match-someone with as much energy and love as she has!
Next week I’ll talk about Charnel Houses for kids. The drugging of our children in detention centers and foster care. This is some scary sh–t homey!