Tag Archives: exercise

Pokemon Go is helping with depression

Here’s the last thing I expected to hear about a popular smart phone game based on Japanese anime characters: It’s lessening players’ depression and anxiety symptoms.

But that’s what users are reporting, and it actually makes sense. Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game–meaning it takes the real world around you and supplements it with virtual content. As you look at a real-life scene through the camera of your smart phone, characters appear. Your job is to catch them. Millions of people are heading outside for hours at a time to go on Pokemon hunts.

The game gets people moving around in nature, and that’s a dynamite combination for mental health. When you’re depressed or anxious, finding the motivation to head outside and exercise and engage socially can be extra difficult, but with the game’s competition and rewards, people are doing it. It’s enough that hundreds have been commenting on social media about feeling better.

It’s the opposite effect from traditional video games, and I’m happy to see it.

Click here to read what people are saying about Pokemon Go and mental health!

Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. She sees children, adolescents, and adults.


Fighting depression with sunshine and exercise

Fighting depression with sunshine and exercise 

It’s June, and here in Boise we’ve shaken off any lingering symptoms of winter. That’s good news for people suffering from depression and other mental health conditions.

Exercise and sunshine are both simple but effective tools in treating depression, so why not take advantage of both at the same time?

A 2005 study introduced a group of women to a three-part strategy for fighting their mild to moderate depressive symptoms. For eight weeks, these women walked briskly outdoors five days a week, increased their light exposure, and took a special vitamin regimen. In the end, moods significantly improved as did overall well being, self esteem, happiness, and depression. A control group who simply took a placebo vitamin showed improvement, too, but the effect was much greater in the group participating in the three-part intervention.

Another study, this one from 2002, divided 98 participants into three groups. The first group exercised in bright light, the second group exercised in normal light, and the third group stretched or relaxed in bright light.

Each group reported some relief from depression, but those who were out in the bright light (either exercising or relaxing) also showed improvement in less common symptoms like carbohydrate craving, weight gain, social avoidance, and fatigue — symptoms that exercise alone didn’t temper.

Of course, when you’re considering the benefits of sunshine, remember to also weigh its risks, including skin cancer. Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) supplements may be another effective tool to consider.

For more details on these studies and on the relationship between Vitamin D and depression, check out this report from the National Institutes of Health.