The Obesity-Depression Link
The association between obesity and depression has been well-established, with several studies examining the correlation. Some research suggests that there is a direct relationship—obesity can lead to depression and vice versa. A study by researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found a strong link with obese individuals having a 55% increased risk of developing depression, and those with depression experiencing a 58% increased risk of becoming obese.
What one singular treatment could help improve both? Exercise.
We all know that exercise is an integral component in creating a positive change in weight and obesity, but depression? A study by Duke University aimed to assess the effectiveness of an aerobic exercise program compared to standard medications in older depression patients. The results: “after 16 weeks of treatment exercise was equally effective in reducing depression among patients with clinical depression,” researchers concluded.
Exercise boosts mood and triggers the release of “feel good” hormones such as serotonin. In addition to this physiological response, exercise, particularly in a group or social setting, provides a sense of camaraderie and interaction that benefits mood. Even a basic walking program can produce significant improvements to how you feel, in a relatively brief period of time; in fact, the resulting hormone release is almost immediate! Exercising to lift your spirits is good, but consistency is the real key to successfully incorporating exercise as a means of maintaining a long-term, mood-boosting effect.
For anyone that’s overweight or obese, exercise is vital to improving both weight and mood—the two truly go hand-in-hand. If you are depressed, anxious, and unmotivated, chances are you’re not getting off the couch to go for a walk or head to the gym. Without exercise and movement, the chances for success with weight management decrease.
It’s clear that we can use exercise to “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak. Begin with the basics and as exercise becomes an established habit, take note of not only how much you weigh, but how much better you feel. Keep a journal that cites your mood before and after exercise sessions, and from your start point (day 1) to somewhere 4-6 weeks into your program. Chances are you’ll not only feel better on the outside, but on the inside as well.
Related articles of interest:
Archives of General Psychiatry 2010; 67 , 220-229
Archives of Internal Med. 1999;159:2349-2356.
About the author
Jason is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association and a Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist. Through his Lifestyle Coaching, he works to enhance the quality of his client's lives and overall health.
Jason's areas of specialization include functional training, core training, postural improvement & corrective exercise, nutrition/supplementation, and integrative/natural health. Jason's ultimate mission for TheFitRx.com is to provide a platform that empowers individuals to improve the way they feel, function, look and live.