Exercise can benefit mental health, and for some people with depression it can relieve negative symptoms. However, even though exercise is supposed to help decrease depressive symptoms, depression can hinder some aspects of exercise, according to a study that was published in the journal Psychophysiology.
“A new study suggests that clinical depression may hamper the body’s ability to recover from physical activity, prolonging the amount of time it takes for a depressed person’s heart rate to slow down and return to normal after a workout,” according to a New York Times article. “Although it may sound minor, some research suggests that a difference of even just a few beats a minute during post-exercise recovery is associated with a shorter life span.”
Depression has already been linked to heart disease, so this study could contribute to an understanding of that connection, according to the article. Researchers don’t think results should discourage people with depression from exercising. Consistent exercise is still considered helpful for people with depression.
Some experts and people who have suffered from depression share their own insight into these study results and what it could mean for people with depression.
“I think this study can shed [light on] some badly needed compassion toward those who suffer from depression,” said Hadley Allen, a personal fitness trainer who has suffered from depression and recovered through exercise. “Instead of just saying ‘go exercise and you will be fine,’ we can learn that albeit ... exercise helps, clearly the toll that depression takes on the body is not limited to the brain.”
She suggests that when people with depression start exercising to help themselves, they should take these findings into consideration.
“People with depression should approach exercise knowing that the same patience they have with their cognition will need to be given toward their physical body post-exercise,” Allen said.