Exercise, Depression, and Employee Health
Here on the Hanson Medical Systems blog, we cover a lot of material about how different lifestyle factors can contribute to serious chronic illnesses. Most of the illnesses we cover are physical in nature, whether we’re talking about diabetes, colon cancer, or heart disease.
But there’s another important class of diseases that’s an increasing problem in the United States. Hanson Medical Systems is just as interested in using our healthcare consulting services to help treat depression.
Depression is a serious illness, and a common issue in employee health conversations. Depression afflicts more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7% of the national population, each year. Depression can be a chronic lifelong illness, or it can be something that comes and goes depending on the individual. But one thing is certain, depression is very real, and it has negative effects on individuals and the companies they work for.
What is Depression?
Depression is a complex interplay of physiological, social, personal, and environmental issues. A person may be depressed because their genetics contribute to an underproduction of serotonin or norepinephrine. Another individual may become depressed because they were in a bad car wreck and were bedridden for 3 weeks, never exercising or going outside. Others are dealing with existential issues, others suffered neglect as children and have never adjusted in life, but regardless of the cause, the effects are often the same.
Depression isn’t just feeling sad. In fact, it can occur in people who do not consider themselves sad at all. Depression can contribute to a “slowing down” of the body and of perception. Depressed people report seeing colors that are less vivid than non-depressed people. People who are depressed may be unable to sleep, or may sleep very much. Depressed people may see a marked decline in their metabolism or appetite, causing them to quickly gain or lose weight.
How is Depression Treated?
There are many classic antidepressants, such as bupropion, which are effective for some patients. Others respond well to cognitive behavioral therapy. Still others see the most improvement when certain lifestyle factors are changed for the better. Diet and especially exercise can be a powerful antidepressant for this second group. People should always see a licensed professional to both diagnose and suggest treatment for depression, but in all cases and regardless of other treatments prescribed, exercise is beneficial.
Exercise helps “jump start” the brain into production of the chemicals which create the feelings of happiness and well being. It makes people stronger, which gives them a firmed biological foundation on which to build an adjusted sense of self. Exercise can help build confidence, as strength and appearance become more satisfactory to the individual. Finally, exercise simply helps expose people to wholesome lifestyle elements, like sunshine and fresh air.
In the end, Hanson Medical Systems is of the opinion that moderate exercise never hurt anybody. For people struggling with minor depression, it’s a great place to start. For those diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, it’s an essential part of reintegrating the self into a satisfied, contented whole.