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Physical activity for feeling down and blue

Note: This post is written by the team of The ONE Group (Oncology – Nutrition – Exercise) at Penn State College of Medicine as part of a first-person blog about their work. Learn more about the group here.

This month we will be talking about feeling down and blue, and giving a brief review of the effects of physical activity on these symptoms.

Depression is a mood disorder, and symptoms includes sad, anxious, or “empty” mood, feelings of little hope or worth, feeling helpless, feeling cranky, loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities, difficulty concentrating, and decreased energy or fatigue, among others.

These feelings are quite common in both the general population and among cancer survivors, and commonly occurs with cancer.

Fortunately, physical activity improves these symptoms in healthy adults and cancer survivors. In addition, physical activity is protective against the development of these symptoms. Recent reviews of the effects of physical activity on symptoms of feeling down and blue show that moderate-intensity aerobic training, three times per week, for 12 weeks, or twice weekly combined aerobic plus resistance training for six to 12 weeks made people feel much better.

The reasons for these effects could include improving a sense of improving in a skill (the skill of exercising). Exercise may also change chemicals in the brain, which are involved in how depression develops.

The take-home message is that beyond the number of physical health benefits available from engaging in guidelines based physical activity, there are a number of mood benefits. Get moving!

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