Physical activity may help fight depression in seniors, says study

When an individual is battling depression, exercise seems to be the last thing on their mind. However, if they can be motivated to take it up, exercise can make a huge difference to their mental health. Research on anxiety and depression has corroborated the fact that physical and psychological benefits of exercise can help elevate mood and reduce anxiety, not only in the younger population, but also in seniors.

While everyone is aware of the advantages of exercising, kinesiologists at the McMaster University discovered an interesting fact during their research. According to them, physical activity, especially in the case of seniors, can help combat depression effectively, if the muscle-generating mood boosters are stimulated. The research stated that physical exercise helps to activate the genes residing within an individual’s skeletal muscle. This activity influences the primary metabolic paths which help in promoting the levels of chemicals, such as serotonin in the brain, responsible for uplifting moods.

Muscle loss in old age restricts pathways increasing risk of depression

For the purpose of this study, healthy senior men, in the age group of 65 and above, were asked to follow a 12-week fitness regime involving high-intensity interval training (HIIT) on a stationary bike. This activity was carried out weekly coupled with twice weekly strength training sessions. In the case of the geriatric population, it was observed that muscle loss was a common issue. This restricted the pathways and increased the risk of depression in seniors.

The researchers observed muscle changes during the study period and concluded that the stipulated three-month period of physical exercise was enough to improve gene expression activity in the human body. Blood samples of this group of seniors were also sent for analysis.

According to David Allison, a post-doctoral fellow in McMaster’s Department of Kinesiology, even healthy individuals need to make exercise a priority in order to boost their mental health. Since the benefits of exercise can be achieved even at old age, it is important to maintain and continue a fitness regime.

Exercising can be used as prevention or treatment strategy in seniors

The study revealed that the fundamental mechanisms responsible for uplifting our mood while exercising persist into old age. Earlier, a similar study demonstrated how these mechanisms worked in case of young healthy grownups. However, it did not reveal if the muscle weakening process, which takes place during the aging process, would prevent the elderly population from gaining similar benefits owing to exercising.

According to Allison, the findings of this study can have significant implications on using physical exercise as a mode of treatment or a preventive strategy in the case of seniors fighting depression. There is very limited information pertaining to the association between skeletal muscle and an individual’s mental health. It is still not clearly known how physical activity influences this relationship.

Depression common in America

Anyone who has overcome depression would understand the severity of the mental illness and its impact on an individual’s life. As per the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is one of the most commonly prevalent mental illnesses among the people of the United States. An estimated 5.2 million adults aged 50 years or older had a past year major depressive episode (MDE) in 2017. Further, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 20 percent adults aged 60 and above suffer from a mental or neurological disorder. With the fast-paced lifestyle of the family members, seniors are left alone at home for long hours which eventually leads to depression.

Carrying this research ahead, the researchers intend to study the connection between a clinically depressed individual’s mental health and exercise to identify if similar biochemical changes can be evoked in them by physical activity.

Seeking treatment for depression

Depression is a medical condition that calls for immediate treatment intervention. A plethora of treatment options exist for people afflicted with depression at credible depression treatment centers. If you or a loved one is displaying symptoms of depression, seek help immediately.

The MCHealth of California is the leading mental health treatment provider. We can assist you in finding the most suitable depression treatment program in your vicinity. You can either reach us directly on our 24/7 helpline (877) 636-0042 or chat online with our experts to connect with the best depression rehab center in California.

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