Having an Honors degree in Human Movement Studies and working in gyms in a former life while studying for my Clinical Masters degree, I have seen this to be true. Of course it seems self evident, but these researchers have used great science with an excellent and now research-proven written program and workbook. These, along with their recent meta-analytic research review, show just how effective exercise can be in improving mood.
Credit: PhysOrg.com) — Exercise is a magic drug for many people with depression and anxiety disorders, according to researchers who analyzed numerous studies, and it should be more widely prescribed by mental health care providers.
“Exercise has been shown to have tremendous benefits for mental health,” says Jasper Smits, director of the Anxiety Research and Treatment Program at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be.”
The traditional treatments of cognitive behavioral therapy and pharmacotherapy don’t reach everyone who needs them, says Smits, an associate professor of psychology.
“Exercise can fill the gap for people who can’t receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don’t want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments,” he says. “Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.”
Smits and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, presented their findings to researchers and mental health care providers March 6 at the Anxiety Disorder Association of America’s annual conference in Baltimore.
Their workshop was based on their therapist guide “Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders,” with accompanying patient workbook (Oxford University Press, September 2009).
The guide draws on dozens of population-based studies, clinical studies and meta-analytic reviews that demonstrate the efficacy of exercise programs, including the authors’ meta-analysis of exercise interventions for mental health and study on reducing anxiety sensitivity with exercise.
“Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger,” Smits says. “Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviors. For patients with anxiety disorders, exercise reduces their fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing.”
After patients have passed a health assessment, Smits says, they should work up to the public health dose, which is 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.
At a time when 40 percent of Americans are sedentary, he says, mental health care providers can serve as their patients’ exercise guides and motivators.
“Rather than emphasize the long-term health benefits of an exercise program — which can be difficult to sustain — we urge providers to focus with their patients on the immediate benefits,” he says. “After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy — and you’ll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise; it is the very reason to exercise.”
Smits says health care providers who prescribe exercise also must give their patients the tools they need to succeed, such as the daily schedules, problem-solving strategies and goal-setting featured in his guide for therapists.
“Therapists can help their patients take specific, achievable steps,” he says. “This isn’t about working out five times a week for the next year. It’s about exercising for 20 or 30 minutes and feeling better today.”
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Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Press Release
Short-Term Program for Binge Eaters Using “Overcoming Binge Eating” by Dr. Christopher Fairburn Has Long-Term Benefits
PORTLAND, Ore. — A new study finds that a self-guided, 12-week program helps binge eaters stop binging for up to a year and the program can also save money for those who participate. Recurrent binge eating is the most common eating disorder in the country, affecting more than three percent of the population, or nine million people, yet few treatment options are available.
But a first-of-a-kind study conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Wesleyan University and Rutgers University found that more than 63 percent of participants had stopped binging at the end of the program — compared to just over 28 percent of those who did not participate. The program lasted only 12 weeks, but most of the participants were still binge free a year later. A second study, also published in the April issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, found that program participants saved money because they spent less on things like dietary supplements and weight loss programs.
“It is unusual to find a program like this that works well, and also saves the patient money. It’s a win-win for everyone,” said study author Frances Lynch, PhD, MSPH, a health economist at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research. “This type of program is something that all health care systems should consider implementing.”
“People who binge eat more than other people do during a short period of time and they lose control of their eating during these episodes. Binge eating is often accompanied by depression, shame, weight gain, loss of self-esteem and it costs the health care system millions of extra dollars,” said the study’s principal investigator Ruth H. Striegel-Moore, PhD, a professor of psychology at Wesleyan University. “Our studies show that recurrent binge eating can be successfully treated with a brief, easily administered program, and that’s great news for patients and their providers.”
Binge eating has received a lot of media attention recently because the American Psychiatric Association is recommending that it be considered a separate, distinct eating disorder like bulimia and anorexia. This new diagnosis can be expected to focus more attention on binge eating and how best to treat it, according to the researchers. It also could influence the number of people diagnosed and how insurers will cover treatment.
This randomized controlled trial, conducted in 2004–2005, involved 123 members of the Kaiser Permanente health plan in Oregon and southwest Washington. More than 90 percent of them were women, and the average age was 37. To be included in the study, participants had to have at least one binge eating episode a week during the previous three months with no gaps of two or more weeks between episodes.
Half of the participants were enrolled in the intervention and asked to read the book “Overcoming Binge Eating” by Dr. Christopher Fairburn, a professor of psychiatry and expert on eating disorders. The book details scientific information about binge eating and then outlines a six-step self-help program using self-monitoring, self-control and problem-solving strategies. Participants in the study attended eight therapy sessions over the course of 12 weeks in which counselors explained the rationale for cognitive behavioral therapy and helped participants apply the strategies in the book. The first session lasted one hour, and subsequent sessions were 20–25 minutes. The average cost of the intervention was $167 per patient.
All participants were mailed fliers detailing the health plan’s offerings for healthy living and eating and encouraged to contact their primary care physician to learn about more services.
By the end of the 12-week program 63.5 percent of participants had stopped binging, compared to 28.3 percent of those who did not participate. Six months later, 74.5 percent of program participants abstained from binging, compared to 44.1 percent in usual care. At one year, 64.2 percent of participants were binge free, compared to 44.6 percent of those in usual care.
Everyone in the trial was asked to provide extensive information about their binge eating episodes, how often they missed work or were less productive at work, and the amount they spent on health care, weight-loss programs and weight loss supplements. Researchers also examined expenditures on medications, doctor visits, and other health-related services.
The researchers then compared these costs between the two groups and found that average total costs were $447 less in the intervention group. This included an average savings of $149 for the participants, who spent less on weight loss programs, over-the-counter medications and supplements. Total costs for the intervention group were $3,670 per person per year, and costs for the control group were $4,098.
“While program results are promising, we highly encourage anyone who has problems with binge eating to consult with their doctors to make sure this program is right for them,” said study co-author Lynn DeBar, PhD, clinical psychologist at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.
Study authors include: Lynn DeBar, John F. Dickerson, Frances Lynch and Nancy Perrin from the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research in Portland, Oregon; Ruth H. Striegel-Moore and Francine Rosselli from Wesleyan University; G. Terence Wilson from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and Helena C. Kraemer from the Stanford University School of Medicine.