As if clinical depression wasn’t depressing enough, it may block your ability to enjoy some of the health benefits of light alcohol drinking or moderate exercise. That’s the rather distressing report from Duke University Medical Center researchers, who published their results today online in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
The lead author of the study, Edward C. Suarez, is also a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke. He noted that previous researchers have discovered that both moderate drinking and exercise reduce inflammation in the body — an overreaction of the immune system that can predispose people to heart disease and diabetes.
His study examined over 220 nonsmoking, healthy adults to see how they reacted to small amounts of alcohol and exercise. Normal men lowered their inflammation by drinking one drink a day. Both normal men and women could lower their risk by exercising.
Normal women had no benefit from the amount considered moderate for females in the study — only one-half drink a day.
And both men and women who were depressed didn’t reduce inflammation in their bodies from either alcohol or exercise.
However, don’t assume that you’re now excused from taking care of your body if you’re depressed. While exercise during outbreaks of clinical depression might not relieve inflammation, multiple studies have shown that it can help you fight the depression itself.
In fact, one of the most important studies about the link between exercise and recovering from depression was also conducted at Duke. According to the National Institutes of Health, the patients who joined an exercise group had the greatest improvement, perhaps because the group setting gave them an incentive to keep working out.
However, patients could work out on their own and still benefit. According to the NIH, the people who exercised on their own were more likely to be recovered from their depression 10 months later than the patients who were treated only with prescription medication.
The takeaway? Exercise isn’t a cure-all, but it’s still recommended to people suffering from depression.