The influence of exercise on depression



The study of depression has received significant attention from the scientific community in recent years, and although it is understood as a multifactorial disease, is the fact that depression is a psychophysiological disorder that needs to be diagnosed and treated properly (FLECK et al., 2003, LEHTINEM; JOUKAMAA, 2007, ROZENTHAL; ENGELHARDT, 2004).

Depression is characterized by abnormal affective changes to its intensity, frequency and duration of the occurrence of symptoms that may include feelings of sadness, crying spells, anxiety, low self-esteem and low ability to feel pleasure, guilt, pessimistic views the future, social isolation, loss of interest by somatic changes involving sleep, appetite, psychomotor activity and sexual function (BAPTISTA, 2004).

Authors like Lanter (1999) and Stella et al. (2004), mentions that the exercise has shown important contribution to improving the state of the profile of humor in the short and long term. There are chances that the release of β-endorphin and dopamine to acute exercise can produce a relaxing and analgesic effect, giving greater stability in positive mood.

Philips (2003) reports that physical exercises performed in liquid medium with the temperature close to body temperature, potentiate the feeling of relaxation and comfort, by preventing the body windchill increase considerably. With the physiological adjustment after a few weeks of regular exercise, there is greater availability of central serotonin caused by lipolysis, softening the psychosomatic symptom picture of the disease.

Vieira, Rocha and Porcu (2008) conducted a study of 12-week intervention with women with depression have an average over the age of 40 years, where he practiced gymnastics in that period. The authors found that despite failing to achieve normal level in the clinical picture, there was significant improvement in assessments of indicators related to mood.

This fact can be explained based on other research Coyle and Santiago (1995) and Goodwin (2003) showed that a sedentary lifestyle is closely related to various levels of depression. In studies such as Landers (1999), Stella et al. (2004) and Dimeo et al. (2001), intervention procedures with physical exercises in depressive patients produced positive effects both acute and chronic of exercise practice in reducing levels of depression.

However, apparently the type of exercise and intensity seem to influence the answers found. The results obtained by Landers (1999) and Martinsen et al. (1989) make them believe that the exercise of aerobic predominance of moderate intensity is more effective in reducing levels of depression due to acute and chronic psychophysiological responses. However, study of elderly subjects (Sheikh et al., 2003) found that the depression and anxiety levels decreased significantly after intervention with moderate exercise, better results than in the group of elderly who underwent only leisure activities.

Another result that goes against the previously proposed of obese adolescents: the group that was submitted to aerobic exercises of moderate intensity showed significant improvement in depression levels in the groups that were treated with physical leisure activities (STELLA et al., 2005). Under these circumstances, it is essential that physical exercise goes beyond entertainment and social interaction activities – the program needs to be systematized and organized the physiological supplemental form and psychologically action of antidepressants used in the treatment.

But more important than the short-term effects caused by a single exercise session, are caused effects are long-term, as shown by Roeder (2004).

Recently, longitudinal studies mentioned by Salmon (2001) have been conducted and has consistently linked the habit of exercising and mental health

quality. By provoking wellness sensations, as the results of important studies on the subject (Taylor et al., 1994 PHILIPS et al., 2003), the exercise program may become an increasingly pleasurable activity, and this motivation for practical help in adherence to regular practice, which in turn leads to fundamental physiological adjustments for the control of clinical levels of depression for long-term (LANDERS, 1999, COYLE; SANTIAGO, 1995, DIMEO et al., 2001).


Published findings suggest that physical activity (any movement not periodized) and exercise (conditional movements) are beneficial for people suffering from depression. However, routine physical exercises are more efficient.