FEB 12, 2016 10:02 AM PST

Exercise + meditation rein in negative thoughts

Young adults who suffer from depression saw a 40 percent reduction in symptoms when they did meditation and aerobic exercise two times a week for just two months, research shows.
 
Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression," says Tracey Shors. "But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.

“We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students,” says Brandon Alderman, assistant professor in the exercise science and sports studies department at Rutgers University. “It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression.”

The findings show that a combination of mental and physical training (MAP) enabled those with major depressive disorder to not to let problems or negative thoughts overwhelm them.

“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression,” says Tracey Shors, professor in the psychology department and Center for Collaborative Neuroscience. “But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”

The men and women were recruited from a university counseling and psychiatric services clinic. Those who completed the eight-week program—22 suffering with depression and 30 mentally healthy students—reported fewer depressive symptoms and said they didn’t spend as much time worrying about negative situations taking place in their lives as they did before the study began.

MAP training was also provided to young mothers who had been homeless but were living at a residential treatment facility when they began the study. The women involved in the research exhibited severe depressive symptoms and elevated anxiety levels at the beginning. But at the end of the eight weeks, they too, reported that their depression and anxiety had eased, they felt more motivated, and they were able to focus more positively on their lives.

Depression often occurs in adolescence or young adulthood. Until recently, the most common treatment for depression has been psychotropic medications that influence brain chemicals and regulate emotions and thought patterns along with talk therapy that can work but takes considerable time and commitment on the part of the patient.

Participants in the new study, that is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, began with 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. They were told that if their thoughts drifted to the past or the future they should refocus on their breathing—enabling those with depression to accept moment-to-moment changes in attention.

Even though neurogenesis cannot be monitored in humans, scientists have shown in animal models that aerobic exercise increases the number of new neurons and effortful learning keeps a significant number of those cells alive, Shors says.

The idea for the human intervention came from laboratory studies, with the main goal of helping individuals acquire new skills so that they can learn to recover from stressful life events.  By learning to focus their attention and exercise, people who are fighting depression can acquire new cognitive skills that can help them process information and reduce the overwhelming recollection of memories from the past, Shors says.

“We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health,” says Alderman. “The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.”

Source: Rutgers University

This article was originally posted on futurity.org.
About the Author
  • Futurity features the latest discoveries by scientists at top research universities in the US, UK, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The nonprofit site, which launched in 2009, is supported solely by its university partners (listed below) in an effort to share research news directly with the public.
You May Also Like
SEP 22, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 22, 2019
Don't touch the thermostat! Study shows how temperature impacts productivity and cognitive performance.
A new study from USC may have upped the stakes of office thermostat battles. The results of a study recently published in PLOS ONE demonstrated that temper...
SEP 22, 2019
Health & Medicine
SEP 22, 2019
Healthy lifestyle can counter genetic risk of dementia
According to new research, a good diet and regular exercise don't just help you lose weight. Two studies presented at the annual Alzheimer's Associ...
SEP 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 22, 2019
Is Autism Really 81% Genetic?
A condition that affects 1 in 37 boys and 1 in 151 girls in the US, research is fast-showing that genetics account for 81% of the risk factor for someone t...
SEP 22, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
SEP 22, 2019
How Wolves Evolved into Dogs
Wolves and dogs share 99.9% of their DNA. Technically still the same species, they can also produce healthy offspring. But having said that, there’s ...
SEP 22, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
SEP 22, 2019
Can FDA Approved Ketamine Drug Spravato Really Treat Depression?
President Trump is allegedly in support of a new drug to combat depression. He even urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to purchase it and “get ...
SEP 22, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
SEP 22, 2019
A High-fat Diet Can Trigger Changes in the Brain
We all need some fat in our diets, but eating excess amounts of unhealthy fat has been linked to poor health outcomes....
Loading Comments...