Most of us have heard about runner’s high but wonder if we can achieve the same results from less strenuous exercise such as walking. A new study shows that a 30 minute walk at a steady pace can provide a mood boost to people suffering from depression. Walking provided the same lift that an individual may seek from cigarettes, caffeine or binge eating.
Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin measured the moods of two groups suffering from depression after a 30 minute period. One group spent the 30 minutes walking on a treadmill while the other group sat quietly. They were surveyed five minutes before the session and five, 30 and 60 minutes afterward. Although both groups reported a reduction in negative feelings only the group that exercised acknowledged they felt good after the session.
The study, funded by Future Search Trials, an Austin medical research company, involved 40 people between the ages of 18 and 55. All of the participants in the study were recently diagnosed with major depressive disorder, were not taking antidepressants and did not regularly exercise.
Lead researcher John Bartholomew, an associate professor of kinesiology and health education said the study reinforces past research that has found consistent exercise, along with medication and counseling, can help people overcome depression. Bartholomew is one of the first researchers to show that the results of exercise can be felt almost immediately.
The positive mood effects from walking were significant, but the results were short-lived, returning to pre-exercise levels within an hour.
Bartholomew said “It’s not something you have to do for 10 weeks and it’s not something you have to do at a high intensity. You should derive a benefit very early on in the process, and hopefully that is the kind of thing that will motivate them to continue to engage in the behavior.”
For people who suffer from mild or moderate depression, walking (or any form of exercise) may lessen feelings of helplessness and isolation.
(Much of this content came from an Associated Press article by Liz Austin.)