Replace Your Antidepressants With Exercise


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May 13, 2016
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We all know that taking pills and chemicals to fix things in our bodies is considered normal. Note I didn't say natural.

So these chemicals affect how everything in our bodies work. They alter our uptake of serotonin, dopamines, and other mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain.

This, however, has a negative effect on the rest of our body. Since antidepressants block the chemicals from being absorbed throughout your body, the risk of an early death rises by 33%.

I've been a huge proponent of using exercise as your antidepressant instead of running straight to big pharma. Exercise helps us get healthier, naturally increases our "happy chemicals," and helps us improve in every aspect of our life.

Don't let what I just said be an attack on you if you take antidepressants. I've thought about taking them, but I believe exercise and eating right play a huge role in our outlook on life.

Let's check out what this study says.

The Study on Antidepressants and Exercise​


Scientists up at McMaster University in Canada combined results from 17 studies previously completed. They analyzed a pool of nearly 380,000 people.

The first round of analysis lead the scientists to believe there is a 9% increase in premature death among those who took antidepressants... Which is not statistically significant.

Round two came about and they removed people who were suffering from any cardiovascular disease and found that the death risk jumped up to a staggering 33% compared to those who did not take antidepressants.

Their findings lead them to believe that antidepressants are blood thinners, which actually help the people who do have cardiovascular disease. It helps the blood clotting, which is great for some people.

Among the pool of people without any cardiovascular disease, taking antidepressants increased the risk of heart attacks and strokes by 14%.

How Do These Drugs Work?​

As I said earlier, antidepressants help alter the uptake of serotonin, dopamine, and other mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. While it allows you to absorb more of these "happy chemicals," your body is being deprived of the same vital chemicals. Your heart, kidneys, lungs, and live use serotonin and other chemicals from your bloodstream.

Since the antidepressants are limiting the amount of chemicals your organs need to function, it could increase the risk of death.

Many doctors have admitted saying that "I prescribe antidepressants even though I do not know if they are more harmful than helpful in the long-term."

What did the stats say?​

So they've calculated that 8 in every 1,000 people over 50 years old will usually die every year if they did not take these prescriptions. It would jump up to 10.64 in every 1,000 people for those taking the pills.

While fewer than 3 extra deaths per year doesn't seem like much, these results suggest that we shouldn't take them unless we know exactly how they interact with the body. While there are many people who benefit from these drugs, Canadian study leader Paul Andrews said: "We are very concerned by these results."

"They suggest that we shouldn’t be taking antidepressant drugs without understanding precisely how they interact with the body. I do think these drugs for most people are doing more harm than good and that physicians ought not to generally prescribe them."

What Did the Critics Say?​

Critics have torn apart this study due to various small issues such as not taking account for the dose or duration of any patient. They go on to say that anyone who takes an antidepressant is already at an increased risk due to a wide range of physical health problems. All of these carry a risk of increased mortality.

These pills have also been prescribed to those with chronic pain, insomnia, and other ailments.

There are always two sides to every story. Looking through the information, I believe that there certainly is an increased risk of death from taking antidepressants. I think we need to find out exactly how they affect the rest of our bodies before we can say definitively.

Can You Replace Prescription Antidepressants With Exercise?​

Depression is the most common mental illness, affecting nearly 25% of Americans. A growing number of studies are popping up suggesting one of the cheapest and best cures is exercise.

While we don't know how antidepressants affect our bodies overall, we do know that exercise combats depression by naturally releasing endorphins... You know, the high you feel after a long run or heavy session.

Studies from 1999 from a randomized control trial showed that adults with depression who took part in aerobic exercise improved as much as those who took Zoloft. A study from 2011 shows that 127 depressed people who did not experience any relief from an antidepressant found that exercise led 30% of them into remission. This result is as good as, if not better than the drugs alone.

The theory behind this is that activity boosts norepinephrine, which is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in your mood. Just like antidepressants, exercise helps the brain grow new neurons.

So why don't more doctors prescribe a good old sweat session?

Wrapping It Up​

So taking antidepressants may work in most people, they increase your risk of dying. I know, everything can kill you, so why bother?

I think the big picture in all of this is that there is more out there to get help than eating pills. I've watched many friends and family try antidepressants. While with some they worked, others it didn't.

Exercise is a natural antidepressant, it keeps you from relapsing into depression again, and it doesn't take that much time to fulfill your exercise needs. Putting in roughly 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (or an equivalent combination of both) is enough to help with your depression.

We aren't even talking about the physiological and psychological benefits of exercise such as a better self-worth, more confidence, and of course, a healthy body.

I invite you to find a workout partner and just start exercising. You don't have to go to a gym, you don't need fancy clothes, and you definitely don't need that expensive pedometer.

Actively fight your depression off and pick an activity you enjoy. Meet new friends and start slow. If you want to get into weight lifting, we have plenty of articles to get you started.