A good workout can really lift your spirits -- enough to capture the attention of professionals treating depression. Convincing research has mental health professionals pairing exercise with more conventional therapy to alleviate the symptoms of depression. For example, one study found that depressed patients who participated in both counseling and a prescribed running program significantly improved their depression scores, compared to patients who received only counseling.
Other studies indicate that exercise has a preventive value as well, helping individuals with risk factors or a history of depression steer clear of its symptoms.
Why? Regular physical exercise stimulates the central nervous system, increasing the transport of oxygen to the brain and boosting the activity of neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, which elevate mood.
If you aren't sure where to start, an exercise class or personal trainer is a great way to kick off an exercise program.
The following resistance exercise strengthens the deltoid muscles that run over the top of your shoulder. The deltoids' function is to lift the arm to the front and side. They work hard all day long, any time you use your arms.
This exercise may be done from a sitting or standing position, but sitting will give you more stability to better isolate the movement in your arm. Sit forward in the chair, lifting your torso tall, and place your feet firmly on the floor. Hold a resistance tube or band behind your back with one end in each hand. Stabilize one hand behind your back to anchor the end of the tube. Place your other arm at your side, keeping your elbow slightly bent (photo at left).
Exhale and slowly raise your arm to shoulder level (photo at right). Pause briefly, then slowly lower your arm as you resist the pull of the tube. Inhale naturally as you lower your arm. Your knuckles, wrist, elbow and shoulder should be in a straight line at the top of the move. Try to keep your arm on a slight forward angle from your shoulder. Adjust the tubing so that you can do 10 to 15 repetitions.
Perform one to three sets with each arm.