Depression in the elderly is quite common – it is reported in 5% to 10% of community elders, rising to 18% in nursing home residents. Moreover, depression is associated with an increase in the death rate that is not due to suicide.
Antidepressant drugs are quite successful in treating depression in the elderly, but they can have unpleasant side effects that may prevent patients from using them.
Exercise Helps Preventing and Treating Depression
Instead of taking drugs to control depression, a good alternative such as exercise is now proven to be useful. The body produces more natural antidepressants when you exercise. According to research, 150 minutes of exercise each week; i.e. 30 minutes a day, 4 to 5 days a week, can help treat mental health conditions including anxiety and depression. Exercise lowers stress, elevates happiness, and fosters self-esteem.
In a study conducted in the US, exercise treatment was given to elderly patients suffering from depression. It consisted of 30 minutes of continuous walking or jogging (with 10-minute warm-up and 5-minute cool-down periods) at a rate to provide 70% to 85% of the heart rate reserve. The sessions were done three times a week for 16 consecutive weeks.
It was found that many of the patients felt much better at the end of the period. The reason for the favorable effects of exercise is uncertain.
It may be that their improved levels of fitness made people feel better. It may be that the physiological effects of exercise improve mood or self-esteem in some biochemical way (e.g., by the release of endorphins). One important point is the social interaction that occurs in exercise regimens.
It may not be possible to get over depression completely. Nevertheless, the findings are encouraging for those elderly people with depression who cannot tolerate antidepressant drugs, or who require the benefits of a social activity that carries numerous other rewards. It looks as if depression can be added to the growing list of theories that claim with certainty- ‘Exercise is good for you’.