Good news for aging and depression: Exercise and diet help

Harold Mandel's picture
Running for good health and depression treatment
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There has been a widening interest in natural interventions to help with aging and depression due to many reports of painful, debilitating and at times dangerous side effects of suicidal and homicidal ideation associated with the psychiatric drugs used for these for treatments of these conditions. It sometimes appears to be an oversimplified professional position that exercise and diet are generally far preferable for these conditions, but the bottom line is if they work well than they work.

The Society for Neuroscience offers an excellent overview of a group of research papers which support the premise that exercise and diet are good interventions for aging and depression. New studies which have been released have highlighted the potential positive impact of healthy lifestyle choices for the treatment of depression, the effects of aging, and for learning. The experiences which people have during their lifetime and the lifestyle choices which they make actively impact the the health of the brain. As populations age, as we are seeing with the baby boom generation, lifestyle changes dealing with diet and exercise have the potential to become very significant because they have few side effects.

Regular exercise may prevent or reverse age related loss of motor ability

Research reported on by Louisiana University shows that regular exercise in aged rats improves their ability to get around. This positive effect was seen even in rats who were previously inactive, therefore reversing the effects of age on the movement abilities of these rats. It is suggested by these findings that similar treatments could be effective in humans, therefore helping to prevent or even reverse the effects of aging on motor ability.

Mind/body awareness may help injured people regain functions

The University of Minnesota has reported on research showing that yoga and meditation may help people to regain functions which have been lost to disease or injury. Training in mind/body awareness has many forms, including yoga, meditation, and reiki. All of these relaxation techniques involve directing awareness to specific areas of the body. This might explain how we learn to manipulate objects by using systems which connect our brains with computers.

Exercise may help prevent brain deterioration

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A report from Chongqing Medical University in Chongqing, China has showed exercise might help avoid deterioration in the brain by increasing blood vessels in the white matter of the brain. As people age, memories and other brain functions decline. The aging brain has been observed to lose white matter, which is important for carrying information between different regions of the brain. Capillaries are also lost in aging brains. These very small blood vessels bring oxygen and nutrients to the white matter of the brain. Part of the decline of white matter in the brain is due to a lack of adequate blood supply. Exercise can improve the blood supply to the brain and therefore even help restore some function to the aging brain. This research was done on rats.

Exercise may help depression in young people

The University of Newcastle in Callaghan, Australia has reported exercise may be very helpful for depression in young people. Exercise is a great alternative to drugs for depression because it lacks the side effects of drugs and has many other health benefits. Findings from this research have supported the beneficial effects of exercise as intervention or as a supplement to current therapies for young people who are suffering from depression.

Low calorie diets may prevent age related loss of mobility

Louisiana State University has reported a low calorie diet helps to prevent the reduced mobility which occurs in aged rats. It is suggested that low calorie diets could help people in similar manners. Michael Salvatore of Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center has said, “Couch potatoes can rejoice. Our results show that a restricted diet alone could help prevent some of the movement effects of aging.” However, to be on the safe side it's a good idea to also suggest exercise as being important for aging people.

I have reported in a separate article for EmaxHealth on how moderate exercise can save you from the dangerous despair of depression. EmaxHealth reporter Robin Wulffson, MD has written about tips for longevity and improved cognitive function. EmaxHealth reporter Denise Reynolds, RD has written a review of the top ten foods to boost your mood when you’re feeling blue.

It has been my professional experience that drugs to help prevent and treat problems associated with aging and depression often cause more problems than they solve. Patients are therefore generally very receptive to natural interventions for these problems. Certainly, exercise and good nutrition should always be suggested to help cope with aging and depression. Yoga, meditation and reiki may also be beneficial. It is important to educate people about the value of these natural interventions to help them cope better with aging and depression. For additional reading also see Dr. William Marchand's 7 alternative alternative approaches to treatment of depression in a book published in 2012 and proposing an alternative guide to recovery.

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