Can sport help with Depression? What researchers have to say…

Sports do not build character. They reveal it.For a long time there was an empirical assumption that sport may help in coping with depression.  The immediate effect of sport is ofcourse that it will rise the self-esteem by creating a better personal image. Given the fact that the poor self-esteem and a bad personal image are one of the causes for depression, exercising will provide a beneficial relieve from depression. Witch is not bad, considering that by doing sport you also get a better health.

But researchers from the Institute of Sport Science at the University of Bern, led by Mirko Wegner, has studied the effect of sport on anxiety disorders and depression in a study involving a total of 40.000 people. In this study they founded out that the effect of sport is similar to that of the antidepressant:


Wegner and colleagues from the Medical School Hamburg concluded that sport and physical activity have a positive effect on depression and work in a similar manner to antidepressants. They published their findings in the latest edition of scientific journal CNS & Neurological Disorders Drug Targets.

Antidepressants increase the concentration of serotonin, a neurotransmitter thought to be a contributor to feelings of well-being and happiness. Its functions also include the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep.

Antidepressants thus promote the generation of nerve cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved with emotional behaviour. Depression, on the other hand, leads to cell death in the region, according to the researchers.

Sport also results in an increase of serotonin in the blood, stimulating the growth of nerve cells in the region.

Unfortunately Wegner said that they where unable to conclude how often a week and how long people should do sport. The effect of sport on depression has been estimated by the researchers as being “medium-sized” and for anxiety only small.

Even if the serotonin increase is not very high, doing sport remain a good complementary treatment for depression. This is also because, as I stated in the beginning of the article, will also increase the self image and the self esteem, and not forget the health gain. So, if you are feeling down, is always a good idea to do some sport.

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