According to the results of a new study, the symptoms of depression and anxiety can be relieved with patients being forced to exercise in the same way that voluntary exercise benefits them. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder. The study results will be published in the European Journal of Neuroscience in February.
Previous other studies have already linked exercise to decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression when coupled with the sense of control patients get when volunteering to exercise or make positive life changes. Now this study is showing that the benefits exists even if the patient loses that sense of control when being forced to make the positive lifestyle changes like exercising. Examples of forced exercise include: gym classes in high school, professional athletes, military personnel and patients told to exercise by their doctors, according to Benjamin Greenwood, an assistant research professor in CU-Boulder’s Department of Integrative Physiology.
“If exercise is forced, will it still produce mental health benefits?” Greenwood asked. “It’s obvious that forced exercise will still produce peripheral physiological benefits. But will it produce benefits to anxiety and depression?”
The study was conducted on rats, who were divided into groups and some were forced to exercise, while others just exercised because they wanted to as they were naturally active. The results showed that both groups of rats benefitted from the exercise.
“Regardless of whether the rats chose to run or were forced to run, they were protected against stress and anxiety,” said Greenwood, lead author of the study. “The implications are that humans who perceive exercise as being forced — perhaps including those who feel like they have to exercise for health reasons — are maybe still going to get the benefits in terms of reducing anxiety and depression.”
This study may help doctors to start prescribing exercise to their depressed patients and those with mental illnesses before they start running to dangerous antidepressant medications like Paxil. Paxil has long been used to treat depression symptoms, but is very dangerous and addictive. Paxil has also been linked to serious side effects, including violent and suicidal thoughts and behavior as well as birth defects in babies born to mothers who take Paxil during pregnancy.