Exercise & Depression

It’s the Holidays and everyone is busy, excited and full of anticipation.  But, wait…is that true?  The Holiday season can be difficult for many who have recently experienced a significant loss in their lives or for those whose families live in distant cities.  Seniors can be especially vulnerable to feelings of depression during the holiday season (and at other times of the year as well).

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimate that 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression each year. Many of these individuals are at a higher risk as a result of a sedentary lifestyle and medication side effects.  Studies have revealed the positive effects of exercise on seniors, regardless of gender or age.  The effects are especially significant in patients with high levels of anxiety and depression.  The changes in levels of anxiety, mood and depression after exercise are most often explained by: 

  1. A rise in endorphin levels.  (exercise promotes psychological well-being by increasing the secretion of endorphins, which reduce the sensation of pain and produce a state of euphoria)
  2. Exercise leads to an increase in the availability of brain neurotransmitters (e.g., serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine) that are diminished with depression.
  3. Exercise also increases body temperature and blood circulation to the brain, both of which help contribute to a rise in an overall feeling of well-being (1).

In senior living communities that feature Live 2 B Healthy® senior fitness classes, nursing staff and management report a significant improvement in socialization, mood, appetite and sleep among those residents who regularly attend fitness classes. If you or a loved suspect depression, consult a professional to rule out other possible causes, but consider giving our classes a try.  In many cases, just getting out among a group with similar interests and being physically active can help alleviate the most troublesome symptoms of depression and put a little extra energy into your day.

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person. In seniors, some of the most common symptoms include:

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