Moving for our mood could change why and how we exercise

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As little as one hour of any intensity of exercise a week can improve our mood and hep to prevent depression.


We are in the midst of a fascinating shift in the way we perceive exercise and it has the power to change the way we move.

Last week, a landmark study led by the Black Dog Institute and published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, revealed that just one hour of exercise a week can prevent future depression. 

The researchers followed nearly 34,000 people over 11 years and found that 12 per cent of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants moved regularly at any intensity.

“We’ve known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression,” said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from Black Dog Institute and UNSW.

“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression.

“We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity.”

Some speculate that the increase in serotonin (the neurotransmitter targeted by antidepressants) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (which supports the growth of neurons) from exercise is what makes the difference, while others suggest that the physical exertion helps us to regulate sleep, which may help to protect against depression. Exercise is often a social activity and relieves stress and, it also bolsters us psychologically because it provides a sense of accomplishment and our capability.

The Black Dog study adds to a growing body of research showing that exercise and diet are as relevant to our psychological health as they are our physical health.

This new knowledge may not only change the reason why we move but may change the way we move.

In a new documentary, The Future of Fitness, which won Best Documentary at the London Independent Film Awards, Sebastien Lagree explores what fitness will look like in the near future and beyond. 

The fitness guru, who counts Sofía Vergara, Kim Kardashian and Michelle Obama among his fans, think that in the next 30-50 years we will be exercising less for physiological reasons and more for emotional ones.

“We will have more data on how exercise affects the Mind/Body/Spirit, and workouts will be specifically designed to enhance that effect,” says the LA-based trainer.

Interestingly, he anticipates that we will have less physical need to move in the future.

“My goal [in the film] was to see if technology was going to make the need for physical exercise obsolete,” explains Lagree, whose newest K-Kore by Lagree Fitness gym has just opened in Port Melbourne. “The answer is yes, but technology is also going to redefine the need for physical exercise.

“The most significant science and technology is the field of Neuroscience. Sub-categories such as Neurosports science are emerging and will change the way we exercise or think about exercising.”

But, this doesn’t mean we’ll stop moving; we will move because it fulfils us socially and emotionally.

In fact, it is for this reason Lagree believes big gyms will go out of business in this time if they don’t cater to this change of motivation. “They don’t create communities or social support,” he says, adding that certain forms or exercise such as running or yoga “will always be in fashion”.

Currently, about 1 million Australians suffer from depression and about 70 per cent of us are sedentary, failing to achieve the recommendation of 30 minutes of movement a day.

If we won’t do it for our physical health, maybe in the future, we will do it for our mental health.



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