In our continuing discussion of the depression cure, Dr. Ilard identifies six key areas that lifestyle changes can significantly help prevent and even reverse depressive symptoms. The changes are: 1) Diet (Brain Food), 2). Engagement, 3). Exercise, 4). Light Therapy, 5). Social Connections, and 6). Sleep.

This week we look at exercise, but first an overview of our country’s state of health. The United States is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. It ranks 42nd in life expectancy, in other words, there are 41 countries that live longer than we do. According to the Organization for Economic Development, America has the highest rate of obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks while spending more on health care per capita than any other developed (read wealthy) country. Additionally, research also indicates we are also the most depressed country.

Genetics only count for a small percentage (10 to 20%) of the cause of these chronic diseases; therefore, we must look elsewhere for answers. The Center for Disease Control emphatically states, “…the root cause of the chronic diseases that are the leading causes of morbidity (sickness) and mortality (death) can be traced to lifestyle factors – principally smoking, diet and physical exercise.”

An incredible amount of research indicates that exercise is good for you. Exercise makes you happier, makes your brain function better, reduces depression, and helps you live longer. If this is true why do so few people exercise on a regular basis? First, when you start exercising it doesn’t feel good and you don’t see many benefits right away. Exercise for the sake of exercising never lasts. Make exercise enjoyable, purposeful, and meaningful. Chose an activity that requires movement, join a group of people with similar interests (dancing, bike riding, bowling, swimming, walking, etc.). The most important thing is to choose an activity that requires movement and you will be able to stick with.

Second, a consumption of the Standard American Diet (SAD) consisting of high amounts of refined sugar (sugar sweetened beverages, sports and energy drinks, and ice cream), dietary cholesterol (found only in animal products), and processed food (frozen pizza, margarine, self-stable crackers, donuts, pies, cookies, cakes and fried fast foods) results in chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation, in turn, results in muscle and joint soreness and fatigue. The body is spending so much energy fighting inflammation it has little energy to make available for other things. Eliminating refined sugar and processed foods (which the World Health Organization classifies as a class one carcinogen) and reducing animal products to a minimal allows the body to heal itself. You will begin to feel the difference in less than two weeks. Feeling better you will feel more like exercising.

Jim Runnels is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor and advocate of evidence-based education and supporter of the health benefits of a whole food plant-based, active lifestyle, to achieve optimal health. He is the administrator of Eat Healthy-Texoma Facebook page. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.