Exercise as a Treatment for Depression

Don’t smoke cigarettes, get a good night’s sleep, avoid fatty foods, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, etc.

We will begin offering the 10 week JumpStep Program in early September 2019 (classes are likely to be either on a Tuesday or Thursday from 4-6pm) at the Mt Pleasant Community Centre. … Anyone who wishes more information or wants to have their name and/or a client/guest name on our wait list just contact our amazing Lookout volunteer Mike Sarvari – mikesarvari@gmail.com.  


All of us know that these adages are important but with exercise do we know how incredibly important it can be for our overall wellbeing?

Regular physical activity (walking 30 minutes five times a week at a moderate pace) can reduce your risk of stroke, heart attack, breast cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression by 30%! It can reduce your risk of colon cancer by 40%. It can improve your sleep, aid in weight reduction, and improve your disposition. Researchers now suggest there are 40 different diseases (e.g. arthritis, migraines, colitis, and many more) where regular exercise can significantly improve the outcome of those diseases.

Despite all of this evidence –
80% of Canadians do not get that minimum of 30 minutes, five days of week of moderate activity!
There is also an abundance of research suggesting that regular physical activity (exercise) can be as effective as an antidepressant and/or a course of cognitive therapy in treating depression. 55% of people with depression who engage in regularly sustained physical activity will notice significant improvement, if not full resolution, of their depressive symptoms.

In fact, in 2013 a very important study in this field admonished fitness researchers stating: Stop doing studies demonstrating that exercise is effective at treating depression. We already know it is effective!  What we now need from you researchers is to develop interventions that will introduce people who are not exercising to programs that will connect with them and enable them to pursue regular physical activity for the long term.

With my colleagues at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility – that is what we began to do in 2013. This led to the development of our JumpStep Program. We have continually modified this program. JumpStep is a weekly 2-hour group program (8-12 successive weeks; 6-12 participants) co-facilitated by a recreational therapist and a mental health professional (psychiatrist, clinical counselor etc).

The program consists of one hour with the mental health professional setting short term goals (e.g. how can we help you get active 30 minutes a day…get off the bus one stop early = 10 minutes, walk up the two flights to your 3rd story apartment = 10 min, etc) as well as assisting every participant to deal with their barriers to exercise. We all make excuses when we do not exercise (e.g. ‘I am too busy’, ‘I am too tired’, ‘It is too cold, rainy’ etc) but when we examine our barriers there are many ‘tricks’ to get around those excuses. The second hour we are physically active, and we try to introduce a variety of different ways to be active – so that each person can find something they are passionate about and will continue. Activities include walks in nature, how to use cardio equipment in the gym, a yoga class, a zumba class, indoor games, etc. 

As a researcher we have examined (and published in scientific journals) our results. More than 60% of participants noticed a significant drop in their depression scores. Further, those who are back into a regular exercise routine will also receive all the other health benefits I mentioned earlier. We still hear from many of our ‘alumni’ updating us on how they continue to keep active. 

We observed that some of the keys to improvement in JumpStep were the group interactions and the socialization, the encouragement, and the support of others in the group. Our participants continually told us they could have not done this alone. Also, of importance for participants was trying many different physical activities until each person found that one activity for which they were passionate; an activity that was fun for them – as ‘fun’ appears to be a key to continuing to exercise.

For several years we had conducted our JumpStep classes at the Downtown YMCA but we are excited to have recently partnered with Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation and we will begin offering the 10 week JumpStep Program in early September 2019 (classes are likely to be either on a Tuesday or Thursday from 4-6pm) at the Mt Pleasant Community Centre. We are now actively doing some fundraising so that no fees will be charged to participate in the JumpStep Program.

Anyone who wishes more information or wants to have their name and/or a client/guest name on our wait list just contact our amazing Lookout volunteer Mike Sarvari – mikesarvari@gmail.com.  


About the author:  Dr. Ron Remick

Dr. Remick trained at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington Medical School before immigrating to Canada in 1974 where he completed his specialty training in 1978. In 1986, he was recruited as the Assistant Head of the Department of Psychiatry at UBC; he founded the Mood Disorders Clinic where there it continues to enjoy an international reputation for research in its field. Dr. Remick has published over 200 articles, letters and book chapters in a variety of scientific journals. In his role as the Medical Director at the Mood Disorders Association (MDA) of BC he pioneered the introduction of patient-focused group medical visits. Dr. Remick is now the Medical Director, Lookout Housing and Health Society (LHHS), and MDA is now a branch of LHHS. He strongly believes that educated patients – “informed consumers” – are most likely to receive the best care; it is this philosophy that drives his approach to patient care.

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