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Does exercise reduce depression or depression reduce exercise?

Does exercise reduce depression or depression reduce exercise?

This site has regular reminders that exercise can help alleviate CLL related fatigue symptoms. Exercise is also thought to help alleviate mild depression, but there's been uncertainty over which comes first. Seems that it works both ways! "Snehal M. Pinto Pereira, PhD, of University College London, England, and colleagues, examined whether levels are physical activity are tied to depressive symptoms. They used data from 11,000 people in Great Britain born during the same week in 1958 who were followed periodically until they reached age 50."

Conclusions and Relevance (from the abstract) The relationship between activity and depressive symptoms was bidirectional, albeit more persistent during adult life in the direction from activity to depressive symptoms. Findings suggest that activity may alleviate depressive symptoms in the general population and, in turn, depressive symptoms in early adulthood may be a barrier to activity.

Summary of Findings



Photo: Even gum trees get "Athlete's foot" (a fungal disease), if they stand around long enough :)

5 Replies

Being active helps...

Physical activity definitely affects my mood, but sometimes if I'm really weary or my muscles just don't want to do the work of moving (lifting, whatever) my mind attacks me viciously. I'm using the power of affirmations and CBT to overcome these unwarranted attacks and that's helping a lot. But shutting down the negative self-talk still doesn't get the necessary energy juice to those muscles to make 'em start moving!

And that's when I go and sit on the couch with this beastie, my best friend, my laptop. It doesn't say harsh things to me, it helps me open up my mind and find positive ways to be active mentally. I reckon crocheting or knitting or any other sedentary activity would do the same trick, but it needs to be constructive rather than passive. Watching TV doesn't 'lift' my mood at all.

I'd love to exercise more and I know it would help moderate and balance my moods. On my 'good' days I'm outside, moving about, gardening mostly. What would help me more though is to develop the HABIT of simply exercising for the sake of exercising, as though it was a natural part of daily life, like eating dinner... Five minutes would be a good start, building to fifteen and then half an hour. It shouldn't be too hard to build a habit like that, right?

So I'm talking to my psychologist about will power, what it is and where it comes from (not the pharmacy!) Understanding the nature of habits is a start. As is setting priorities. As is understanding the psychological imperatives that drive my self-sabotaging anti-exercising behaviour!

In the meantime, I'll settle for any kind of activity and giving myself permission to relax and rest more.

Thanks for all your posts Neil. :-)


Having a dog that needs walking is a good incentive. On good days we walk a longer distance, on bad days, which include aches and pains as well as low feelings, we do the minimum - but even that is better than nothing, I tell myself!

love the photo, Neil, well spotted.

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Hi anaturallearner, would be interested to know what your psychologist says about 'willpower'- could help those of us a trying to lose a few pounds!

Have to admit thatI feel so much better walking in countryside or woods.

I also got into a regular habit of attending my local gym (paid one year's membership up-front so have to go twice a week to justify the cost!)


There have been many studies released in the last 3 years relating exercise and mental well-being.

Also studies that show the benefits of being outdoors in a wood, forest or open fields.

The Japanese health authorities will agree and pay for their citizens to spend a day exercising in the woods, as the doctors have all agreed the beneficial effects.

Sadly this kind of research is not done often since at the end of it no magic pills are produced that make money for the drug manufacturers.

Leaders in the research field of exercise have mainly been in Norway and Denmark, and the work done by universities.

An example of research is this below:-


Exercise Hiking makes you happier.

Research shows outdoor walks improve mental health

British and American scientists have published new research showing that group nature walks help us combat stress while boosting mental well-being.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and Edge Hill University in England evaluated 1,991 participants in England’s Walking for Health program, which hosts nearly 3,000 walks per week for more than 70,000 regular participants. They found that the nature walks were associated with significantly less depression in addition to mitigating the negative effects of stressful life events and perceived stress. The findings were published in the September issue of Ecopsychology.

Sara Warber, associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and senior author of the study, said that the large sample was a defining factor.

“We observed behaviors of a large group, in which some chose to walk and some chose not to, instead of us telling them what to do,” she said. “After 13 weeks, those who walked at least once a week experienced positive emotions and less stress.”

Warber and co-author Kate Irvine, senior researcher of the Social, Economic, and Geographical Sciences Research Group at the James Hutton Institute, in Aberdeen, UK, recommend walking outside in nature at least three times a week to experience benefits. Short, frequent jaunts are more beneficial than long, occasional walks.

“Stress isn’t ever going to go away, so it is important to have a way to cope with it,” said Warber. “Walking in nature is a coping mechanism—the benefits aren’t just physical.”


Time for my cycle ride in the nearby forest.. Weather permitting .

Yesterday was REALLY WET.. :-( :-( :-(


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Hi all

I ride my racing bike and it gives me a quite lift but when I get home and download my stats I get a bit down if I am slower and not so quick as my last ride.

Some of the best rides I have had is when I have forgot the the bloody thing and just enjoyed Cycling



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