How Stopping Exercise Impacts Depression

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Many, many studies show that a good way to combat depression is physical exercise. The results are immediate – that feeling of well-being and accomplishment; and later the satisfaction of a toned body, endurance, and better sleep. However, up until recently, no one had researched what happens in regards to depression when regular exercisers stop their workouts.

After all, what can it hurt to take a break for a few days?

In one study, just three days of laying out of exercise was followed by an increase in the symptoms of depression of the slackards. In another study, it took longer for some people – but as soon as one or two weeks.

A researcher at the University of Adelaide looked at studies involving 152 adults. For at least three months, each of them had worked out for at least 30 minutes, three times a week.  This researcher, Julie A. Morgan, found that not only did depression increase when people stopped exercising, but the effects were more pronounced in women than in men.

Is there a provable cause and effect between stopping exercise and depression? Not enough study has been done to say definitely, one of the study’s other researchers says.

"For now, it is important that people understand the potential impact on their mental well-being when they suddenly cease regular exercise," he said.

As parents, we need to think about how changing exercise habits impacts our children.  When our children are participating in competitive sports or other activities that involve a lot of exercise, what happens when the activity ends? Changes in the level of activity can impact our children's mental health.

In addition to how changes in exercise impact our children, we need to consider how changing our own exercise habits will impact how we parent.  If we want to maintain the emotional energy to be good parents, we need to invest in exercising.

So, does this motivate you to not miss a workout?  What other motivations keep you on track with exercising?

Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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