Meditate, Exercise to Fight Depression
It’s a case of two healthy activities adding up to more than the benefits of each one separately.
A study from Rutgers University has found that meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone.
In previous investigations, meditation and exercise have proven beneficial in the treatment of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Given that, researchers wondered whether combining the two might intensify the impacts of each.
When scientists wonder, they test (that’s how science works). And so they recruited 52 men and women, 22 of whom had diagnoses of depression. The depressed volunteers showed signaling patterns in their prefrontal cortex that are associated with poor concentration and focus.
The volunteers were taught a form of mindfulness meditation known as focused attention. It requires people to sit quietly and think about their respiration by counting their breaths up to 10 and then backward. Then they hopped onto treadmills or stationary bicycles, and jogged or pedaled at a moderate pace for 30 minutes.
The 52 people completed these sessions twice a week for 8 weeks. Then the researchers retested their moods and their ability to focus and concentrate.
There were significant changes. The volunteers with depression had a 40% reduction in symptoms. Specifically, they reported much less inclination to ruminate over bad memories. The healthy control group also reported feeling happier than they had at the start of the study.
The explanation? Study authors believe that exercise increases the number of new brain cells in the hippocampus, and meditation helps keep more of those neurons alive and functioning than if people had not meditated.