A form of exercise called HIIT may be much more effective at treating depression than is more typical exercise and antidepressant drugs. HIIT stands for high intensity interval training.
Study Shows HIIT Causes Endorphin Release
Researchers at Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, report that HIIT causes release of endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are “feel good” hormones.
Typical exercise, on the other hand, such as pedaling at a fixed pace on an elliptical machine or briskly walking at a park, do not cause the same kind of endorphin release.
The endorphin release of high intensity interval training, as demonstrated in the study, was significant.
The brain areas involved were those that control pain and emotion.
This isn’t to say that more common forms of exercise can’t be used to fight depression or elevate mood. It’s just that a one-hour steady-state aerobics session won’t cause a significant release of the mood boosting hormone.
Tiina Saanijoki, one of the study authors, says in the report that intensity of exercise affects endorphin release.
Any exercise is a great treatment tool for depression, and of course, won’t yield the side effects that drugs often do.
Ramping up the intensity, however, can enhance its affect on depression via more release of endorphins.
However, there’s another avenue through which HIIT can help treat depression: accomplishment.
If you’ve just completed 30 minutes of steady-state pedaling on a stationary bike, you’ll feel good; you got in your half hour of cardio.
But imagine the pump to your mood after you complete eight “sprint” workouts on the stationary bike.
Actual exercise time is only four minutes, with each “sprint” lasting 30 seconds. In between are two minutes of very easy pedaling.
A sprint consists of your fastest-possible pedaling such that you’re breathless after 30 seconds.
This concept can be applied to other modes of movement for 30 seconds:
• Running on a treadmill or outside
• Jumping up and down
• Switch jumps (lunge jumps)
• Hill dashes
• Staircase dashes
Try HIIT for your depression and see if it doesn’t act as a booster to your regular exercise or antidepressant drugs.