Depression and Exercise

November 19, 2014

Hodges - Depression and Exercise
Charles Hodges

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Charles Hodges

Hodges - Depression and Exercise

BCC Staff Note: You’re reading the third of a four-part, week-long blog mini-series by Charles D. Hodges, Jr., M.D. These posts will follow the theme related to the use of research in our thinking about life struggles. You can read Part One at Chemical Imbalances and Depression and Part Two at Hope Is a Very Good Thing. Dr. Hodges is a family physician who practices medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is a graduate of the Indiana University School of Medicine, board certified in Family Medicine and Geriatrics, and is a licensed marital family therapist. Dr. Hodges is also a trained biblical counselor who has been counseling people with mood problems and other family issues for twenty-five years. You can learn more about Dr. Hodges and his book, Good Mood Bad Mood at his website here. You can also view Dr. Hodges’ plenary presentation at the Annual Conference of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) at their blog site here. Today’s blog is re-posted by the BCC with Dr. Hodges’ permission, and you can also read the original post on his site here.

I Run, Therefore, I Am Not Depressed!

I have been away from the blog for a while because of travel and it is time to get back to new research. And, today I stumbled across a report of research that looks at the beneficial effects of exercise on the risk of depression. Most of you know that on my handle is runningdoc and that is because I run. I have been running since the age of 19—longer than most people have been alive. I run 35 miles a week and by now some reader is asking, “Why?”

Well, now I have a really good answer, or at least a better one than I want to eat coconut cream pie at will! It is reported that exercising three times a week reduces the risk of depression in adults by 16%. And, the benefit increases 6% for each added day one exercises! That means that my risk of depression has been cut by 34% just because I run 6 days a week![i]

Fortunately, exercise in the study was not defined as running, which means the benefit is available to just about anyone who can walk. When I was a young physician, I read an article by Dr. George Crane, a physician and psychologist, who wrote an advice column that was syndicated around the country and published in my paper. Crane described what an old physician had told him worked best for helping his patients who were depressed.

The elder physician said he sent them all out to walk 2 miles a day along with reading a chapter of the gospel of Luke daily. He also had them help someone who was worse off than they were for two hours each week. They were to help someone who could not pay them back and to whom they were not related. The old doctor found that all of these things helped the people he cared for.

I cannot say that everyone who is depressed will be cured by the older doctor’s prescription. But, I can say that daily vigorous exercise can reduce the risk of depression in the general population by 34%. The research is in and it says so!

And, yes, I think the rest of the old doctor’s prescription helps a lot. And, for the last 30 years I have been telling strugglers a lot of the same advice.

Join the Conversation (Added by the BCC Staff)

In your personal life, how do you factor daily exercise into your daily routine?

In your counseling ministry, what role do you believe that good, wise care for the body (eating right, exercising, good sleep habits, etc.) has in helping people who struggle with depression?

[i] I saw this article first on, but the original posting was on Reuters at the above web address.

One thought on “Depression and Exercise

  1. Not to be a wet blanket BUT, perhaps the depression comes first then the reduced activity. In fact we know that often is the sequence. I would say no cause and effect relationship has been shown in regular excercise especially as a preventative strategy. Maybe as a theraputic one.

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