During an event-related bout of depression some years ago, ASICS FrontRunner STEFANO MAIORANA's motivation sunk extremely low. "I didn't leave the house for extended periods," he says, explaining how running helped him through. "At that point exercise helped me overcome my mental state and made me feel better in most aspects of my life."
On a nationwide scale, depression affects just over 25% of people in rural and urban settings. Stefano was curious to hear stories on treating depression with running, so he posted the question to South African fitness groups Cape Town Runners Community and SleekGeek Health Revolution. "I didn’t expect a big response given the stigma and taboo surrounding mental health talk. To the contrary, the feedback was huge. I was surprised by a long thread of moving stories, and pleased by how openly people spoke about it. Many members gave success stories, several names and organisations were tagged, and more people contacted me privately. While many people vouch for treating depression with running, the method has only gained scientific credibility in the past decade."
According to Stefano's research and the input from various experts, he has learned that The most prominent antidepressants act by increasing levels of mood-enhancing compounds such as serotonin and noradrenaline. "The constant release of these chemicals over extended periods results in neural growth in the hippocampus – a central brain region involved in emotion regulation. That is why it takes at least a few weeks for people on antidepressants to experience a response. In a similar vein, repeated aerobic exercise may alleviate depression over a sustained period of time."
Interestingly, running produces some key effects of antidepressants by boosting serotonin and noradrenaline, which in turn stimulates growth of new neurons in the hippocampus after consistent training sessions.
Want to know more? Read Stefano's full blog here.