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Physical Activity Proves Comparable to Medication in Combating Depression

It is well-documented that individuals living with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing anxiety, depression, and depressive symptoms (i.e., diabetes distress).  If this wasn’t enough, people experiencing these conditions along with their diabetes may also struggle with increased hyperglycemia and a decreased desire to manage their diabetes overall.


This relationship tends to be an unending cycle: difficulty managing diabetes can make diabetes distress, depression, and anxiety worse, while these untreated mental health concerns can make dealing with the frustration, exhaustion, and powerlessness oftentimes associated with diabetes that much harder to cope with as well. And without treatment, conditions such as these often worsen over time, not improve.

Suggested treatment options for anxiety and depression symptoms predominantly involve psychotherapy, medication, and/or lifestyle modification.

But which method works the best?

Summarized in an October 2023 article from CNN Health, recent research has found that for many, a physical activity program such as running may be just as effective at treating anxiety or depression as antidepressant medications.  Treating these types of mental health conditions with antidepressants is generally considered safe and effective, but alternative therapies may be necessary for those who do not respond to pharmaceutical treatments or for those who prefer not to take them.

Of course, incorporating running or any physical activity into a daily routine with the hopes of reducing depression or anxiety symptoms is not as straightforward as it sounds. Whether or not this treatment works depends on several factors, including the severity of the depression and/or anxiety, one’s motivation to exercise, and how much exercise is necessary to notice a positive effect. Investigators also emphasized that people do not necessarily have to choose one method over the other.  Since there are no added risks from taking antidepressants and exercising together, individuals should feel free to combine both therapies. However, it is always a good idea to talk to a doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

exercisingDespite the potential advantages of using physical activity to improve depression and anxiety symptoms, it is also important to consider the challenges people with insulin-dependent diabetes may face when attempting to exercise.

Figuring out when and how much to eat before the activity, knowing the perfect time to deliver a bolus or temporary basal, and understanding how that specific exercise will impact blood glucose levels can leave you exhausted before your sneakers are even laced.

The staff at Integrated Diabetes Services know how difficult this balancing act can be, and are available to support you on your way to achieving your goals. Feel free to explore the website, learn about our comprehensive diabetes services, and let us help decrease the stress of diabetes management.

Article by IDS intern, Krystal Bosenbark, MPH, MS

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