Two ways of treating depression

(from 30th May 2014)

What can you do to help yourself out of depression? One well-known possibility is taking antidepressant medication. In some cases this is necessary but other treatments should be taken into consideration. I find it very important to ask what is fundamentally helpful about taking antidepressants. Did you know that taking an antidepressant leads to the birth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain known to be important for emotion? This process in the brain appears to be key to the treatment of depression as there is evidence that the hippocampus shrinks in chronically depressed individuals.

But the exciting point is that it is not just medication that leads to the birth of new nerve cells in the hippocampus and can be used to fight depression. Various studies show that sport activates the birth of new nerve cells. To illustrate this: in a study from 2007 two groups of depressed people were compared. One group received an antidepressant and the other group received no antidepressant but did regular sport. Two years later the sport-group had less depression than the medication-group. Every 50 minutes of exercise per week correlated to a 50% drop in depression levels.

So sport has a very effective antidepressant effect because, like antidepressants, it reverses the degeneration of nerve cells in the hippocampus.