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Break a sweat and a sad mood

The energy-sapping despair of depression may make your darkened bedroom the only place you want to be – but researchers insist that, in this case, you need to go against your instincts and throw off the covers.

PHYSICAL THERAPY

Exercise can improve your mood. This is certain. But is its influence strong enough to lift depression? Though degrees and expressions of depression are individualised, widespread research confirms that, while it may not induce elation, getting enough movement every day can subdue the symptoms of melancholy.

There’s no simple explanation for the depression-busting effects of an active lifestyle, but they’re not only in your head. It’s likely that several mechanisms all work together to boost feelings of well-being. Exercise can increase self-esteem, release anger, distract from negative thoughts and help you deal with stress; as well as trigger the release of “feel-good” brain chemicals like serotonin, balance stress hormones like cortisol, regulate sleeping patterns and improve the general functioning of your entire body.

DOES EVERY MOVE COUNT?

When trying to determine the perfect anti-depression workout regime, things get complicated. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine claims that you have to feel the burn of aerobic exercise (on an intensity scale ranging from 6-20, with 6 illustrating “very easy” and 20 illustrating “very strenuous”; aim for an exertion level of 13-14 for 30 minutes) before substantial improvements in serious depression are noticed. Other studies show that less intensive exercise, and even non-aerobic forms like weight training and yoga, may also have value.

Your desire to feel happier may make you want to jolt your system with an extreme exercise programme. This may be counterproductive because when you push yourself too hard, exercise’s mood-boosting effects may be delayed. Treat yourself gently by gradually upping the intensity as you get fitter and you’re more likely to make exercise a permanent part of your lifestyle. And this should keep low moods to a minimum.HI

HEART ATTACK SYMPTOMS

One of the most common signals that you’re having a heart attack is chest pain. It may sit in your chest like a bowling ball or creep to your arms, shoulder, neck, teeth, jaw or back. Beyond the pain, you can experience anxiety, coughing, fainting, lightheadedness, dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea. Symptoms may float away and then return.

It’s possible to have little or no chest pain during your heart attack (especially if you’re a woman or have diabetes). You may have unusual symptoms instead of chest pain, like shortness of breath, fatigue or weakness. It is also possible to have a “silent heart attack” where there are no symptoms.

A heart attack is an interruption of blood flow to a part of the heart (usually a blockage in one of the coronary arteries), causing cell death. The coronary artery feeds the heart oxygen. Even if the initial heart attack isn’t fatal, damaged heart muscle can lead to congestive heart failure. This is one of the reasons why 19% of men and 26% of women over the age of 45 die within one year of having their first heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.

STAY ALERT

Do what you can to stay healthy (with a good diet, no smoking and plenty of exercise) and hopefully you’ll never have to follow these steps. But remember that heart attack is serious and the symptoms shouldn’t be ignored – so rather be safe than sorry and take action immediately if you experience any symptoms that you think may indicate a heart attack.

Here’s a tip to remember while you wait for the ambulance: when having a heart attack, chew on an aspirin. It was isolated from willow bark over 100 years ago and will help break up blood clots.

References include
  1. Young SN. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007;32(6): 394-9
  2. Dunn AL, Trivedi MH, et al. Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response. Am J Prev Med. 2005;28(1):1-8
  3. American Psychological Association. The exercise effect. 2011.
  4. K Knubben, F M Reischies, et al. A randomised, controlled study on the effects of a short-term endurance training programme in patients with major depression. Br J Sports Med. 2007;41(1): 29-33

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