Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression
By Gretchen Reynolds | well.blogs.nytimes.com | March 16, 2016
Meditating before running could change the brain in ways that are more beneficial for mental health than practicing either of those activities alone, according to an interesting study of a new treatment program for people with depression.
So, for the new study, which was published last month in Translational Psychiatry, the scientists recruited 52 men and women, 22 of whom had been given diagnoses of depression. The researchers confirmed that diagnosis with their own tests and then asked all of the volunteers to complete a computerized test of their ability to focus while sensors measured electrical signals in their brains.
The researchers found that the depressed volunteers showed signaling patterns in their prefrontal cortex that are associated with poor concentration and focus.
Then the researchers had all of the volunteers begin a fairly rigorous, supervised program of sitting, followed by sweating.
To start, the volunteers were taught a form of meditation known as focused attention. Essentially entry-level mindfulness meditation, it requires people to sit quietly and think about their respiration by counting their breaths up to 10 and then backward. This practice is not easy, especially at first.
"If people found their thoughts wandering" during the meditation, and especially if they began to ruminate on unpleasant memories, they were told not to worry or judge themselves, "but just to start counting again from one," said Brandon Alderman, a professor of exercise science at Rutgers who led the study.