Alabama sports doc: Fighting depression? Instead of just medicating, try working out
Depression impacts roughly 325,000 Alabamians at any given moment, according to statistics from the Anxiety and Depression Association of American. But while antidepressant subscribing has skyrocketed roughly 400% over the last 30 years, one Alabama doctor is recommending a different remedy for folks who are feeling down: Workout.
Dr. Sloan Beard and her husband, Dr. Beau Beard, run The FARM (Functional Athletic Rehabilitation and Movement) in Birmingham, which “provides cutting edge chiropractic care, injury rehabilitation and sports performance, to keep you in the game, while getting you out of pain.”
Dr. Beard recently cited an article explaining the findings of two studies by researchers at Harvard Medical School and Duke University showing that working out alleviates the symptoms of clinical depression.
The tried and true Harvard study from the 1990s found that the heavier the weight a person used, the more depression improved. A similar study from Duke University found that depressed participants who weight trained for four months, four times per week for 40 minutes overcame their depression without medication. The Duke researchers found that for every 50 minutes of exercise each week, the rate of depression decreased by half.
Scientific research has proven time and again that weight lifting is about more than just improving your looks. Weight lifting contributes to a more restful sleep, boosts energy levels and slows the aging process. Over time and with consistent effort, this can lead to an overall elevated mood.
“I hope this speaks to someone,” said Dr. Beard. “Being transparent, this is why I lift weights. Yes, I love the aesthetics and the competitive outlet of weightlifting, which I understand isn’t for everyone, but the reason I make time for my workouts — even if my schedule is chaotic — is so that I’m not dependent on a bottle of SSRIs (serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitors, i.e. antidepressants).”
Dr. Beard went on to acknowledge the value of “pharmaceutical advancements” that can be very helpful to some individuals, but added that research suggests more doctors should be urging their patients to workout, rather than just subscribing them pills.
“I realize that we are beyond blessed to have the pharmaceutical advancements and options like we do, and they are certainly needed,” she said, “but why aren’t we prescribing weightlifting either before or alongside SSRIs?”
As for the reservations some people have about lifting weights, Dr. Beard said the side effects of antidepressants should perhaps be of greater concern.
“People sometimes gasp at the possible musculoskeletal injuries that can come along with squatting, deadlifting, etc., but what about the laundry list of side effects that come along with a depression medication? Suicidal thoughts, birth defects, drug dependency, systemic swelling, weight gain, lethargy, etc!
“Again, as with everything, weights aren’t the one magic bullet,” she concluded, “but pass me a barbell!”