Supporting a Loved One with Depression

The Globe and Mail's "Have Your Say" Column recently featured a piece on how family and friends can help support a loved one suffering from depression.

I was invited to contribute to the piece and my brief comments are published here:

Depression, the Black Dog

By 2020, depression is predicted to become the second leading cause of disability globally.  It is twice as common in women as compared to men.  It is also underdiagnosed and undertreated (1).

This video by the World Health Organization does a good job explaining what depression looks like and offers some ideas on how to manage it:

Physical Activity Levels and Mood: Another Reason to Get Moving

Photo by:  Orapan Jampa

Photo by: Orapan Jampa

Modern life sets the stage, unfortunately, for a sedentary lifestyle.  Many of us have occupations where we spend the majority of our time sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer.  In fact, research suggests that more than 80% of modern jobs are classified as requiring just light intensity physical activity, whereas in the 1960's, more than 50% of jobs in private industry required at least moderate intensity physical activity (1). 

Not only is this downward shift in our activity levels believed to be one of the reason why we are getting heavier, which inherently can affect how we feel, our activity levels can influence our mood states.  Studies suggest there is a positive link between physical activity levels and our mood, in that engaging in physical activity is associated with improved energy levels and greater positive feelings.  The good news is that forty percent of Canadians report already using exercise as a stress coping strategy (2).  There is also an exciting body of research looking at the effectiveness of physical activity as a treatment for depression, with research showing that exercise is as effective as antidepressant therapy and these effects are maintained if exercise is continued (3). 

So how much physical activity do we really need to enjoy its benefits on mood? The answer may surprise you.  Researchers maintain that people can enjoy the mood-enhancing benefits by integrating just short bouts of physical activity, 10 minutes or less, into their daily routines (4).  The best thing about this recommendation is that it counters the "no time" barrier that many of us come up with when it comes to exercise.