Another reason to lace up your sneakers: Women who can last longer running on a treadmill are less likely to develop depression, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Researchers assessed the cardiorespiratory fitness and medical history questionnaires of 1261 women and 7936 men between the ages of 20 and 85. During four clinic visits separated by 2 to 3 years, subjects took a maximal graded treadmill exercise test, a treadmill test in which incline and speed are increased until the runner is exhausted. Researchers then assessed the subjects’ medical history questionnaires, which asked patients to indicate whether they’ve had or are currently experiencing depression. After adjusting the results for body mass index, age, and various medical conditions and behaviors, researchers found that for every one-minute decrease in treadmill endurance, the risk of developing depression increased by 5.4 percent for women and by 1.3 percent for men.
Increasing your cardiorespiratory endurance and being more active in general not only reduce your risk of developing depression, but also decrease stress and anxiety; increase happiness, self confidence, and creativity; and improve memory and mental clarity, says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., former physical therapist, current clinical psychologist, and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.
Hundreds of studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of exercise in treating clinical depression. A review of 191 of them was published in the journal Sports Medicine in 2002, and found considerable support for the value of exercise in reducing depressive symptoms in healthy people and those diagnosed with depression. For mood-boosting benefits, work out at least 30 minutes daily, or more days than not, and look for ways to be more active, even when you’re not working out, says Lombardo. Easier said than done? These tips from Lombardo and Jason Karp, Ph.D., running coach and author of Running for Women, will help:
1. Wake up 10 minutes earlier. Then take 10 minutes at lunch and 10 minutes after work, and you’ll easily rake up time for the 30 minutes of daily exercise. Fill the time with a quick workout DVD in the morning, stair climbing in your office building during lunch, and an after-work walk around the parking lot or to a train or bus station past where you typically hop on.
2. Take the magazine test. If you can read a magazine perched on your treadmill screen, you’re not working hard enough, says Karp. Strolling on the treadmill is better than sitting home eating chips, but high intensity interval training can deliver the benefits of exercise more efficiently, adds Lombardo. If you’re not working hard enough, increase your running or swimming speed, add an incline on the treadmill, or increase resistance on the elliptical or bike.
3. Use weights on the Stairmaster. Combining exercises will maximize your results and help you build cardiorespiratory endurance, says Lombardo. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand and either pump your arms to mimic a natural stair-climbing stride or raise the weights above your head and bring them back down as you climb.
4. Jump on the bed. Any activity is better than no activity for improving your mood with a release of endorphins. Plus, jumping on the bed can create a sense of nostalgia and reduce stress.
5. Alternate long and hard workouts. Monotonous workouts cause endurance and weight loss to plateau, so increase your cardiorespiratory endurance by alternating between activities that are longer and harder than your regular fitness routine. Begin by incorporating one of these into your fitness routine each week, then progress to two per week when you feel comfortable:
Long: Jog outside, run on a treadmill, elliptical, cycle, kickbox, row, or swim for at least 60 minutes at a rate where you could simultaneously talk in full sentences.
Hard a: Perform a 10-minute warm-up; 15 minutes at a comfortably-hard aerobic intensity (you shouldn’t be able to talk more than a word or two without taking a breath); 10-minute cool-down.
Hard b: Perform a 10-minute warm-up; 4 to 5 sets of 3 minutes of hard, then 3 minutes active recovery; 10-minute cool-down.