Can yoga ease depression symptoms?

Can yoga ease depression symptoms?

It’s no secret that exercise is beneficial to mental health. Now, recent research suggests certain activities can be particularly effective at easing symptoms of depression — including yoga.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the research involved analysis of more than 200 studies and 14,170 participants. Researchers noted moderate reductions in depression among participants who did yoga in addition to other activities, including walking, jogging and strength training. These activities were beneficial when combined with depression treatments, like psychotherapy and/or medication, or when used alone.

Low-intensity exercise was effective at reducing depression, but higher intensity exercise brought even bigger benefits. The benefits of exercise were equal for individuals with and without other medical conditions and despite the level of depression an individual reported.

“Movement, whether it be walking or a team sport, should be the first line of treatment for depression, anxiety or stress,” explains Dr. Lori Walsh, a health and integrative medicine medical director at Advocate Health Care and pediatric integrative medicine medical director at Advocate Children’s Hospital. “As I have learned from working collaboratively with our yoga instructor, connecting the breath and body helps calm the mind.”

During exercise, the body releases the neurochemicals dopamine, endorphins and serotonin, which heavily influence mood and reduce stress.

Dr. Walsh offers the following tips for incorporating exercise into your daily routine:

  • Find an exercise you enjoy doing so it doesn’t feel like a chore.
  • Ask a friend or family member to be your accountability partner.
  • Look up free yoga (or any other type of exercise) videos online.
  • Set aside time to exercise.

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About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator on the content team at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.