26 Exercise and Psychotherapy

Based on Reasearch by Penny McCullagh, Ph.D. Psychology Science Minute written by American Psychological Association, adapted by Juanita N. Baker, Ph.D.

Psychology Science Minute brought to you by the School of Psychology at Florida Institute of Technology, I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

Why is exercise good for us?  Among other facts, exercise decreases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, and various cancers; lowers blood pressure, reduces problems related to diabetes, assists in the maintenance of bone density, and improves your immune system!

But did you know that exercise is also good for our psyches?

In a 1990 analysis of eighty studies on exercise and depression, a research team that included psychologist Penny McCullagh, PhD, reached the following conclusions:

Exercise reduced depression especially for those most physically and/or psychologically unhealthy and over age 55 years

Exercise was an equally effective antidepressant for both men and women

Walking and jogging were the most frequent forms of exercise that had been researched, but all modes of exercise, anaerobic as well as aerobic, were effective in lessening depression.

The longer the exercise program and the more exercise sessions, the greater the decrease in depression.

The most powerful antidepressant effect occurred with the combination of exercise and psychotherapy.

So find a way to increase your physical activity and consult an expert therapist to help you figure out and learn ways to reduce your depression.

That’s your Florida Tech Psychology Science Minute. I’m Dr. Sarah Arnett.

Cited Research

American Psychological Association explains more, see: http://www.apa.org/research/action/fit.aspx

North, T. C., P. McCullagh, and Z. V. Tran. (1990). Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews Vol. 18 pp. 379-415.

American Psychological Association, May 28, 2004

Additional Sources

Hays, K. F. (1999). Working it Out: Using Exercise in Psychotherapy. Washington, DC: APA.

Hays, K. F. (2002). Move your body, tone your mood. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

Johnsgard, K. W. (2004). Conquering Depression and Anxiety Through Exercise. New York: Prometheus.

Leith, L. M. (1998). Exercising your way to better mental health. Morgantown, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

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