Even if you don’t suffer from depression, it turns out that committing to both exercise and meditation can still reduce symptoms of depression…by as much as 40 percent. A study was recently done at Rutgers University tested out what would happen when people committed to the mind and body combination two times a week over the course of two months.
The researchers had 55 people who suffered from symptoms of depression take part, as well as 30 people who did not. During those two time per week sessions the people committed to 30 minutes of meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. The type of meditation that they engaged in was the focus type meditation which aims to block out everything but what is being focused on, in this case it was their breathing.
If their thoughts started to drift away from the breath (which they inevitably would), they were instructed to put them back on the breath. That has to do with being in the moment while accepting and adjusting. The aerobic exercise that they engaged in meant anything that would get the heart rate up to work the body at a cardiovascular rate, as opposed to something anaerobic like lifting weights.
At the end of the two month period the researchers checked in with the participants to see how they were feeling emotionally. Every single person in the study reported that they had fewer depressive feelings, could deal with situations better, and spent less time worrying.
According to the study author Tracey Shors:
“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities [meditation and exercise] alone can help with depression. But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”
As for why, meditating and working out can actually restructure what’s happening in the brain. When we are stressed out or depressed the brain actually produces fewer neurons in the hippocampus part of the brain, which is responsible for things like learning.
But aerobic exercise has actually been proven to increase that process of neurogenesis, which is why it can help combat depression. Meditation has also been proven to make changes in the brain, and the focus and acceptance required in the meditation process can teach people new coping skills and patience, which makes like a whole lot easier overall.
“Theoretically, the combination of aerobic exercise and FA meditation may increase the number of newborn cells in the hippocampus and rescue these newly generated cells, which may be integrated into the brain circuitry.”
To get the added endorphin rush from exercising, that takes about 30 minutes of aerobic activity so stick with it.
The study author concluded:
“When we talk about having an active and healthy lifestyle, this is one aspect that we are talking about: maintaining a consistent exercise regimen and meditation practice in order to keep reaping the benefits of improved mood and health.”
It certainly can’t hurt!