Monday, March 19 , 2018, 1:36 pm | Fair 63º

Your Health
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Do You Know the Link Between Exercise and Depression?

No need to suffer; you can get up and do something about your condition

Part of aging is adapting to new situations and circumstances. Our bodies change, relationships are made, and people enter and exit our lives. Some people struggle to adapt to these situations and feel lonely, anxious and sad. Occasional feelings of sadness are a normal part of life, but if these feelings last for more than a few days, this can be a sign of depression. According to the National Institute of Health, of the 35 million Americans age 65 and older, about 2 million suffer from full-blown depression. Another 5 million suffer from less severe forms of the illness.

Although depression in seniors is a common problem, few get the help they need. Many people believe that depression is just another part of getting older. Even some physicians may overlook signs of depression because they are more focused on physical ailments. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, studies show that many older adults who die by suicide — up to 75 percent — visited a physician within a month before death. This is proof that we need to be more concerned about the mental status of our seniors.

So how do you know if you or someone in your life is suffering from depression? The National Alliance on Mental Illness recognizes that there may be some differences between the signs of depression in younger and older adults. Older adults may experience memory problems, confusion, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, weight loss, vague complaints of pain, inability to sleep, irritability, delusions (fixed false beliefs) or hallucinations.

Once it has been determined that an older adult is experiencing symptoms of depression, there are different forms of treatment that are prescribed that may include medication, psychotherapy and exercise. Although medication is important in certain cases, there is a wide body of research that shows that exercise can be a positive, noninvasive form of relief. Research has shown that time-limited, brief, structured group exercise sessions can be associated with a modest improvement in depressive symptoms in a group of seniors. Group exercise programs promote well-being by providing friendship and support among participants. Scheduled exercise sessions will also add structure and organization to the day. Exercise can help seniors build confidence and feelings of independence. All of which will work to decrease symptoms of depression.
Apart from the psychological and emotional benefits of exercise, there are also physiological benefits. During exercise, chemicals are released in the body that promote health and well-being. The Mayo Clinic explains that exercise probably helps decrease depression in many ways that may include releasing feel-good brain chemicals which may ease depression such as neurotransmitters and endorphins. Exercise can also reduce immune system chemicals that can worsen depression and increase body temperature, which may have calming effects.

To get these benefits, you do not have to partake in an extensive exercise regime. Simply doing daily chores, going for a walk, gardening, or any other activity that gets you up and moving is a good way to improve your mood.

Titan Fitness & Physical Therapy offers a variety of exercise options for the senior population that include strength training classes taught by certified personal trainer Sara Box, and balance classes taught by licensed physical therapist Breanna Czenczelewski.

— Titan Fitness & Physical Therapy is located at Page Youth Center, 4540 Hollister Ave.. Click here for more information, or call 805.683.1231.

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