I have been away from the blog for a while because of travel and it is time to get back to new research. And, today I stumbled across a report of research that looks at the beneficial effects of exercise on the risk of depression. Most of you know that on twitter.com my handle is runningdoc and that is because I run. I have been running since the age of 19 and longer than most people have been alive. I run 35 miles a week and by now some reader is asking “why?”

Well, now I have a really good answer, or at least a better one than I want to eat coconut cream pie at will! It is reported that exercising three times a week reduces the risk of depression in adults by 16%. And, the benefit increases 6% for each added day one exercises! That means that my risk of depression has been cut by 34% just because I run 6 days a week![i]

Fortunately, exercise in the study was not defined as running which means the benefit is available to just about anyone who can walk. When I was a young physician, I read an article by Dr. George Crane, a physician and psychologist who wrote an advice column that was syndicated around the country and published in my paper. Crane described what an old physician had told him worked best for helping his patients who were depressed.  

The elder physician said he sent them all out to walk 2 miles a day along with reading a chapter of the gospel of Luke daily. He also had them help someone who was worse off than they were for two hours each week. They were to help someone who could not pay them back and to whom they were not related. The old doctor found that all of these things helped the people he cared for.

I cannot say that everyone who is depressed will be cured by the older doctor’s prescription. But, I can say that daily vigorous exercise can reduce the risk of depression in the general population by 34%. The research is in and it says so!

And, yes, I think the rest of the old doctor’s prescription helps a lot. And, for the last 30 years I have been telling strugglers a lot of the same advice.

[i] http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/15/us-health-depression-fitness-idUSKCN0I42IS20141015 I saw this article first on foxnews.com but the original posting was on Reuters at the above web address.

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