Depression: Exercise as a Treatment Option

by Kaitelynn T.

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses in Canada. Through a community survey the Public Health Agency of Canada determined that 11.3% of adults living in Canada identified symptoms that meet the criteria for depression. With such a high rate of the population being affected researchers have become increasingly interested in finding new and alternative treatments to treat or assist in treating the symptoms of depression. One of the new ways to treat depression that researchers are exploring is exercise.

Although never diagnosed with depression, I along with everyone else, have experienced a range of high and low days. Once I started university I found that the lows were becoming more frequent. In high school I always had a sport to play and therefore exercised on a daily basis. However, once in university I had little to no exercise and didn’t participate in intramural sports. About halfway through my first year I decided to try going for a run and found an immediate improvement in my mood. It became a habit to go for a run a couple times a week and I found that the lows were not so frequent anymore. Even on my bad days going for a run was a way to focus solely on breathing and moving my legs. Looking back on this I decided to look into what research had been done on the topic of exercise as a treatment option for depression. I found many articles where the data indicated that exercise did indeed have a positive effect on the symptoms of depression.

The first article I examined was, Exercise as a Treatment Option for Depression: A Meta-analysis Adjusting for Publication Bias, by Schuch et al. This article states that “Our data strongly support the claim that that exercise is an evidence based treatment for depression”. This article does specify that some types of exercise are more effective than other. For example it found that moderate aerobic activities led by a professional appeared to have a larger positive impact on individuals than other types of self-led exercise. Another article I looked at was, Exercise as a Treatment for Depression in Elders, by Carol Palmer. This study reports “Increasing physical activity markedly reduces depressive symptoms and is a safe adjunct or alternative to medication therapy”. This study goes on to state that “Physical activity should be recommended to patients of all ages”. These studies show that exercise can greatly reduce depressive symptoms and creates an alternative treatment option for those struggling with depression. It is important for people to try a range of treatments in order to find an option that is best suited for the individual. As stated by Palmer exercise can be used along with other treatments for depression.

The point of this blog is not to tell people that exercise will cure your depression or that people on medication for depression should stop taking it and simply exercise. The point of this blog is to help make people aware that exercise has a huge impact on our mental wellness and should be reinforced as an important part of staying healthy not just physically but mentally as well.

References

Pearson, Caryn, Teresa Janz and Jennifer Ali. 2013. “Mental and substance use disorders in Canada” Health at a Glance. September. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82-624-X.

Schuch, F. B., Vancampfort, D., Richards, J., Rosenbaum, S., Ward, P. B., & Stubbs, B. (June 01, 2016). Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 77, 42-51.

Palmer, C. (February 01, 2005). Exercise as a treatment for depression in elders. Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 17, 2, 60-66.

 

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Fit Is A Female Problem

By Kelsie P.

In today’s society, women are still facing a number of injustices, including treatment within the fitness industry. ‘Fit’ women are painted to have slim figures, doused with makeup and their hair done just so, with little to no clothing on. Although this may be the norm for some, for many active women this depiction has no relation to their personal experience. Women are told to be skinny, but not TOO skinny – to work on muscle tone, but don’t become TOO bulky – be strong, but NOT STRONGER than the MEN – and numerous other contradictory idealisms set out by the media. Ladies face inequality not only in the expectations of their physiques and physical abilities, but in the funding, sponsorship and coverage of professional women athletes/teams. The struggle to find a professional women’s match or competition is endless, and if you do happen to stumble upon the rare channel providing the airtime, you can be certain the athlete’s competing are being paid a small fraction of their male counterparts’ salary.

CrossFit is constantly under scrutiny in the media about one thing or another. Amongst the hate and ‘short comings’ people love to find about the sport, the positive promotion of strong women and gender equality tends to become lost. CrossFit exemplifies the respect and proper treatment that should be given to women in sport and how competitions should be carried out, considering the time we live in.

CrossFit embraces the saying ‘strong is beautiful’ to the fullest. Marketing around females in the sport, both professional and amateur, focus on the abilities of the athletes as opposed to their overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, due to the negative conditioning thrust upon females at a young age, women are constantly underestimating what they can achieve physically. In this sport, there is no fear of women becoming ‘too strong’ and are encouraged to explore the lengths to which their bodies can carry them. Instead of promoting what a women looks like, CrossFit takes the angle of ‘look at what this body can do’. Sure, confidence can stem from how a person perceives their attractiveness, but confidence through achieving something through hard work and perseverance is that much more meaningful. An ‘ideal body’ may not be able to do a muscle up or snatch 130 pounds, but a strong, confident and healthy woman can. Once a woman buys into the idea that their bodies aren’t limited to vanity, they become vessels for unlimited fitness potential. They become less concerned with obtaining a certain shape, and more concerned with becoming as fit as they can be. (How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality, 2015) Women CrossFit athletes, who are sponsored by companies in addition to CrossFit HQ, like Nike and Reebok, are often depicted doing sports specific movements and showing off their muscles. When these female athletes are interviewed, the focus of the questions rarely strays from the scope of the sport, leaving questions about relationships and clothing preferences left behind.

CrossFit doesn’t adhere to norms that have been established in the sporting world. CrossFit is a considerably new sport, gaining popularity by the day, meaning it has a clean slate to promote equality and turn their cheek to sexist ways. This can be shown as a primary example through the proceedings of the CrossFit games. This past July, the 10th annual CrossFit Games took place in Carson, California and displayed numerous efforts and aspects of gender impartiality throughout. In this competition, both mens’ and womens’ events were given equal broadcast airtime. Both genders, in the individual event, were awarded the same amount of prize money for the ‘Fittest Man on Earth’ and ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’; as well as those placing within the top 10 respectively (amount decreasing with position). Men and women were challenged with the exact same workouts and got to compete within the same arena, in front of well-mixed crowd. In the team event, each team consisted of 2 men and 2 women joining forces to compete co-ed. Additionally, the event commenters, media team, judges and coaches involved a proportionately blended population of both genders. (Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist?, 2013) The examples explored above are virtually unheard of in the sports broadcast/organizational industry outside of the up and coming sport of CrossFit.

Katrin Davidsdottir, ‘Fittest Woman on Earth’ for the consecutive 2015/2016 CrossFit Games, perfectly summarizes what the sport of CrossFit is about through saying,

In CrossFit, both men and women are told they can do anything. You want to achieve a muscle up? You can. You want to set a personal record with your back squats? Go for it. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, it matters what you’re made of. We’re all athletes competing in the same sport, with the same goal: To become stronger, healthier and better people.” (Davidsdottir, 2016)

CrossFit is a sport where women and men are revered equally and females are valued for their ability, not appearance. The sporting world, as well as the professional/everyday world, should take lead from CrossFit and learn what it means to eliminate discrimination and promote women in a positive way.

Sources:

Davidsdottir, K. (2016, April 6). What CrossFit Can Teach Pro Sports About Gender
Equality. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from
http://motto.time.com/4279643/women-soccer-gender-discrimination-
crossfit/

How CrossFit Might Be Promoting Gender Equality. (2015, August 05). Retrieved
January 30, 2017, from
https://socialjusticetoronto.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/how-crossfit-
might-be-promoting-gender-equality/

Is CrossFit Games Coverage Sexist? (2013, July 31). Retrieved January 30, 2017,
from https://musclesonalady.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/is-crossfit-
games-coverage-sexist/

 

 

A Man’s Territory: The Gym

By Jessica D.

By now, many know the health benefits associated with being physically active: avoiding heart disease, depression, obesity, diabetes, and the list goes on. Exercise participation and barriers to physical activity have been widely researched for many decades. Some of the most commonly reported barriers to physical activity include lack of time, lack of enjoyment, lack of social support and lack of past exercise behavior (Trost et al., 2002). However, are we neglecting the fact that intimidation exhibited by male counterparts in a gym environment may account for a large quota of female dropout in physical activity?

The Health Survey for England (Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2011) reported that only 29% of the UK women were achieving recommended levels of physical activity compared to 39% of males. In a study done by Pridgeon and Grogan (2012) whom observed exercise adherence and dropout, all non-adheres were conscious of the presence of others while exercising at the gym. Moreover, when it comes to the way girls dress or the weight they are going to add while doing their bench press at the gym, the presence of males plays a highly influential role.

Traditional public perceptions of a male are expected to be strong, independent, and athletic, whereas females are deemed to be the “weaker sex”. When these gender norms are violated either at the gym or in a sport context, it is common for labels to be given (i.e. “she must be a lesbian”). For this reason, females are left feeling vulnerable in a gym setting, thus, discouraging them from pushing themselves to become in great physical condition, and to most certainly not exceed the condition of their male counterparts.

Although I am no stranger to the gym, the thought of working out next to sweaty guys huffing, puffing, and grunting as they try to bench press hundreds of pounds always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. Take the weight room at the Currie Centre, for example. It has become the norm for women to breeze past the room simply because of the male dominated environment that has been created. For many years, I did the exact same thing myself. I felt as though the glares and stares I was receiving while lifting, at times, as much weight as some of the men in the room were making me feel as though I did not belong in that space. However, being a fitness enthusiast, and being well aware of the health benefits associated with adhering to a weight-training program, I did not let the intimidation of male bodies in the room drive me away. I really enjoyed this post “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights” : number 7 which caught my eye in particular, mentions how “you’ll feel empowered” and that lifting weights is associated with a boost in self-esteem.

While both men and women work out in contemporary gyms, popular conceptions of the gym as a masculine institution continue. That being said, many alternatives need to be considered for women who do not adhere to gym participation as the result of male intimidation. Women-only gyms, exercising partners, and comfortable clothing, to name a few, are good examples of ways to boost a women’s self-esteem and self-efficacy while at the gym. In the end, shouldn’t we be working towards creating a more accepting gym environment? Don’t women have every right to flaunt their muscly arms and toned legs too?

References

Trost, S.G., et al., 2002. Correlates of adults’ participation in physical activity: review and update. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 34 (12), 1996–2001. doi: 10.1097/ 00005768–200212000–00020.

Health and Social Care Information Centre 2011. Health Survey for England – 2008: physical activity and fitness. Available from: http://www.ic.nhs.uk/pubs/hse08physicalactivity [Accessed January 2011].

Pridgeon, L., & Grogan, S. (2012). Understanding exercise adherence and dropout: an interpretative phenomenological analysis of men and women’s accounts of gym attendance and non-attendance. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, 4(3), 382-399.