the use of exercise in place of antidepressants.
Psychologist James Blumenthal studied the “connection” between mood and exercise with a controlled experiment. “A group of adults with major depressive disorder were given one of four assignments: supervised exercise, exercise at home, antidepressants or a placebo.” He concluded that patients exercising or on antidepressants showed more improvement than those on the placebo (Weir). This study leads to the conclusion that exercise can reduce the use of antidepressants. One of the more easily understood hypotheses is the distraction hypothesis. This hypothesis implies that exercise can distract a person from depressive thoughts and worries. Generally, distracting activities have a more positive influence on the management of depression than self focused activities such as journaling or identifying things that describe one’s mood (Craft). In multiple studies, exercise has been compared with other types of distractions.
Exercise is either more effective than some activities in reducing depression or similar in aiding the reduction of depression (Craft). Therefore, exercise is a good choice of a distracting activity. In correlation with the distraction hypothesis, sports psychologist Darcy Wallace suggests that exercise can be used for getting people out of their depressive cycle. If someone gets into a routine of walking daily, it gives them a goal.
Once the patient gets moving and experiences even a short burst of feeling good, “they can document that things got lighter for them” (Wallace). This happy memory will make the person more inclined to exercise again.The last major hypothesis is the self efficacy hypothesis. Self-efficacy is “the belief that one possesses the necessary skills to complete a task as well as the confidence that the task can actually be completed with the desired outcome obtained” (Craft). Psychologist Albert Bandura explains that depressed people often feel they cannot bring about positive outcomes in their life and have low confidence that they can deal with their symptoms of depression. Exercise causes self efficacy to be enhanced because it provides the individual with a feeling that they have mastered something (Craft).
Self efficacy is difficult to measure, and its effects on depression continue to be studied. Wallace was asked whether the positive effect from exercise is due to feeling confident or being fit. She said the positive effect is due to confidence; a person can look physically fit, but not feel good. She added that confidence is internal so that is why it is more beneficial than fitness to someone who is depressed (Wallace). This idea supports the self efficacy hypothesis.
All five of these hypotheses continue to be studied. “More research is needed to determine which, if any, of the mechanisms described herein are important moderators of the exercise effect. It is highly likely that a combination of biological, psychological, and sociological factors influence the relationship between exercise and depression” (Craft). The exact mechanism, type and duration of exercise that will produce these effects on depression have not been determined; however, it is known that exercise exerts positive effect on depression itself.