Does Exercise Help Depression and Anxiety?

Running or jogging doesn't have to kill you to get benefit

Running or jogging doesn’t have to kill you to get benefit

I had an interesting conversation with a patient at the pharmacy that got me thinking about doing a post about this. This patient came a week or two ago and got a prescription for buspirone, which is used for anxiety. The patient was concerned with it because this person desperately wanted to get rid of the feeling of anxiety that they were suffering with.

The patient returned and I asked how it was going (We’ll call the patient Casey). The response was that not much had changed. Casey petitioned for more help, but this time to me, rather than the doctor.

My response?

Are you eating well? Are you doing any exercise at all?

Casey told me that neither was really in place. Casey also told me that a problem child at home was a great source of the anxiety. Casey also discussed how the previous week that he’d gone on a walk and that seemed to help a bit.

I’ve met others like Casey in the pharmacy before, and still see some of them. I’ve had people so anxious for their anxiety meds they were crying. I’ve seen people on the verge of hyperventilation. I’ve seen people, who on the surface appear normal, but after talking for a minute or two, they start divulging secrets about their lives that would make you and me stressed out too.

I used to get anxiety attacks. They would come at the most random times too. I remember once in high school in spanish class sitting at my desk, when suddenly I became hot and felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. I was more panicked about not feeling like I could breathe more than anything else. It wasn’t pleasant.

I don’t think during high school a lack of movement was my problem. I could eat anything and not gain a pound (being a male teenager has some advantages), but my diet probably was helping.

As I got older and started focusing more on my intake rather than my output, the attacks subsided. After learning about EFT (emotional freedom technique) or tapping, I was able to rid myself of the attacks all together.

Since I’ve graduated and been able to keep a more balanced routine, I haven’t had to do any tapping and the exercise is regular, rather than disjointed. Anxiety is nowhere to be seen, but I still get stressed from time to time. Between 4 kids, a wonderful wife, full-time job, blog, church duties, getting a house ready to sell, and writing a book, it’s hard to make sure I don’t go insane.

This is one reason I continue to exercise. It keeps my stress down, my happiness up, and bad things, like my wife’s recent trip where the windshield got busted, not so bad.

So What Kind of Exercise Should I Do?

In one study of depressed women [1], researchers found that aerobic running was just as good as weightlifting to reduce symptoms of depression compared to controls.

Another study showed pretty much the same thing; there was no real difference between aerobic and non-aerobic exercise in reducing depression. [2]

Another showed that aerobic exercise from 50-70% of maximal capacity was enough to decrease depression as well. [3]

One study showed that running was better than tennis which was better than softball, the latter having no effect. [4] While the findings were significant, even the authors noted that because they did nothing to conceal the reason behind the exercise, and even allowed some to choose which they were going to participate in, the results could have been different.

A study of men and women found that running helped more so with women than men, and was more influenced by the amount of physical fitness. [5]

In a study of men; exercise, meditation, and a comfy recliner all produced reductions in anxiety [6]. It should be noted that it was a quiet time in the recliner, not TV or kids time.

Another study showed similar benefits with walking/jogging at 70% maximum capacity. [7]

Of note, a study looking at relaxation training seemed to help introverts more than extroverts. [8] This really doesn’t have so much to do with exercise, but if you’re an introvert like me, relaxation may help in the anxiety department.

Swimmers seem to also derive benefit from exercise, feeling better after a swim than before. [9]

I think you get the point. Exercise is beneficial to reducing stress, anxiety and improving mood. Don’t worry if you can’t run a mile. Go for a walk. Don’t worry about not being able to do a push up, do knee push ups or on the wall. Do some squats. Take a walk with a significant other. Maybe you just need to run after the ice cream truck and give him a high-five for dispensing some of the best medication on earth (in moderation of course). Whatever it is, get moving and feel the anxiety or depression melt away.



1.Doyne, Elizabeth J., et al. “Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 55.5 (1987): 748.

2.Martinsen, Egil W., Asle Hoffart, and Øyvind Solberg. “Comparing aerobic with nonaerobic forms of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression: a randomized trial.” Comprehensive psychiatry 30.4 (1989): 324-331.

3.Martinsen, Egil W., A. Medhus, and L. Sandvik. “Effects of aerobic exercise on depression: a controlled study.” BMJ 291.6488 (1985): 109-109.

4.Brown, Robert S., Donald E. Ramirez, and John M. Taub. “The prescription of exercise for depression.” The Physician and Sportsmedicine 6.12 (1978): 34-37.

5.Jasnoski, Mary L., David S. Holmes, and David L. Banks. “Changes in personality associated with changes in aerobic and anaerobic fitness in women and men.” Journal of psychosomatic research 32.3 (1988): 273-276.

6.Bahrke, Michael S., and William P. Morgan. “Anxiety reduction following exercise and meditation.” Cognitive therapy and research 2.4 (1978): 323-333.

7.Young, R. J. “The effect of regular exercise on cognitive functioning and personality.” British journal of sports medicine 13.3 (1979): 110-117.

8.Stoudenmire, John. “Effects of muscle relaxation training on state and trait anxiety in introverts and extraverts.” Journal of personality and social psychology 24.2 (1972): 273.

9.Berger, Bonnie G., and David R. Owen. “Mood Alteration with Swimming-Swimmers Really Do” Feel Better”.” Psychosomatic medicine 45.5 (1983): 425-433.


Writing Your Way to Health

Unleash your mind power with a good ol fashion pen and paper

Unleash your mind power with good ol fashion pen and paper

Writing is something that all of us have done from time to time. Maybe it hasn’t been a novel or a movie script, but even a grocery list counts as writing. Keeping a journal also counts. I’ve heard over the years that writing can be therapeutic in different ways and wanted to discuss just a few of these things today, especially since drugs aren’t always the answer and finding other avenues of treatment for the mind is useful, especially when it’s free.

In a study of college students, researchers looked at how writing would affect depressive symptoms in those students. College, after all, can be a trying time for many a student. The students were instructed to write on their “deepest thoughts and feelings on current and past emotional upheavals” (intervention) or “time management conditions” (control). [1] It was set for three consecutive 20 minute sessions, plus a booster session 5 weeks later. Depressive symptoms were measured just before the first of three session, just before the 5 week booster and 6 months later.

Students in the “feelings” group did report lower depression scores than those in the control group. The 5 week booster seemed to have no effect. It would be interesting to see if this study was repeated, but with more writing sessions instead of 4, and on a more consistent basis.

In a study with cancer patients, subjects were asked to write about their feelings and thoughts of the cancer, or neutral topics, on four different occasions. Patients writing about their feelings exhibited better physical functioning scores and seemed to improve the cancer related symptoms. [2]

In another intervention in marriages, couples who were experiencing discord and disagreements were assigned to a control or writing group. The writing group was asked 3 specific questions and they were given time to write about them. The writing wasn’t started until a year into the study. The couples who wrote had their downward spiral level off, while the couples who didn’t write, continued in decline. [3] It’s not to say that writing fixed all the problems in the relationship, but it did make an environment from which they could come together and not continue to grow apart.

Writing about it may also be an important step. And I mean actually taking out a pen or pencil and paper and writing, rather than just typing on a keyboard. In a study looking at brain scans and writing, good writers showed more activation in areas of “cognition, language, and executive functions, consistent with predictions, and also in working memory, motor planning, and timing”. [4] This may be beneficial when helping a person really use their brain in coping or figuring out emotional problems.

In another look at typing vs longhand, it was found that people who write notes tend to assimilate information and process it to write it down, whereas typers just assimilate and type the facts. In other words, writing notes longhand while learning allow people to understand concepts better than if they were to type. Actual facts are maintained about the same in both groups. [5]

I think this is some good advice in general; to write regularly and to try to write instead of type. I’ve noticed in my own writing, my style changes when I’m brainstorming or just rambling vs when I’m being direct or making a point. When I write a prescription for example, my writing is neat, organized, and very legible. When I’m taking notes in a class or a meeting, it is more sloppy and all over the place, and not just because I’m trying to be quick.

Does this mean anything? I think it is reflective of different parts of my brain being utilized when writing, I think that’s obvious. It probably goes deeper than that, but I’m no neuro-expert. What I am convinced of is that writing can be beneficial for all sorts of things, but you have to do it to get the benefit. It also appears that focusing on your thoughts and feelings, in other words, what is actually being processed by you, is far more important than just writing about what you did or what you’re going to do, say in a schedule.

Maybe this writing doesn’t have to be everyday, but regularly, whatever that is, would probably be best. Maybe that’s a journal once a week or month. Maybe writing is part of work and your sick of writing already. Sometimes a break from the things we do is part of health as well, or at least changing what we write about.

Writing blog posts regularly can sometimes be a bit boring, so I’m writing a novel on the side for fun. It has reinvigorated my love for writing and now the blog doesn’t seem like a chore as sometimes it can.

Being intentional about writing can be useful too. In the studies listed above, postive outcomes were seen when subjects were answering specific questions about what problems they were facing. So write specifically. If you don’t want to, then at least try writing.

So if any of you want to try a different approach to depression, pain, cancer, crazy children, or anything else, I give you this challenge; write about it.

I’d love to hear any experiences anyone has had with this in the comments.



1.Gortner, Eva-Maria, Stephanie S. Rude, and James W. Pennebaker. “Benefits of expressive writing in lowering rumination and depressive symptoms.” Behavior therapy 37.3 (2006): 292-303.

2.Milbury, Kathrin, et al. “Randomized controlled trial of expressive writing for patients with renal cell carcinoma.” Journal of Clinical Oncology 32.7 (2014): 663-670.

3.Finkel, Eli J., et al. “A brief intervention to promote conflict reappraisal preserves marital quality over time.” Psychological science (2013): 0956797612474938.

4.Berninger, Virginia W., et al. “fMRI activation related to nature of ideas generated and differences between good and poor writers during idea generation.” BJEP Monograph Series II, Number 6-Teaching and Learning Writing. Vol. 77. No. 93. British Psychological Society, 2009. 77-93.

5.Mueller, Pam A., and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking.” Psychological science (2014): 0956797614524581.


Are Pre Workouts Harmful or Helpful: Tyrosine and Taurine

Lets talk two amino acids today and kill two birds with one stone. Tyrosine and taurine are up to bat today so lets review them and see what benefit or detriment they may offer.


Tyrosine is an amino acid that is formed from phenylalanine and thus is not an essential amino acid. It is a precursor for other compounds such as dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine.

Tyrosine is marketed as being used for increased cognition and stress intolerance. This makes some sense seeing as how it helps replenish the norepinephrine in the body. Reading comments from people who have bought and used the supplement you are bound to see things like, “It has helped me with morning fog” or “I feel so much more energized in the morning” or “I don’t feel like killing my kids..”. Ok so the last one was made up but you get my drift.

Does tyrosine really help, at least from a scientific standpoint?

In a study of cyclists, researchers gave 4 different drinks; placebo, tyrosine, tyrosine with carbs, and carbs at 6 different times before and during a 60min ride and then a time trial. The tyrosine was dosed at 25mg/kg body weight and the carbohydrate was a 7% solution or 70g/L.

The cyclists who had the carb solution finished the time trial in 27.17 ± 0.92 min while the carb/tyrosine group finished in 26.11 ± 1.01 min. These times were significantly lower than performance times for placebo (34.44 ± 2.89 min) and tyrosine (32.64 ± 3.05 min) [1]

This study makes it look like carbs are likely the key to increased performance, which would make sense especially in a sport like cycling where many calories are being burned. The authors were careful not to conclude that tyrosine has no effect since it’s possible that the manner in which it was dosed might give diminishing returns.

In another study of men performing different activities, tyrosine was administered at 150mg/kg of body weight 30 min before exercises were performed. These included load carriage treadmill sessions, pull-ups, stair stepping with weight and handgrip strength. There were not significant differences between groups. [2]

Tyrosine is often noted in marketing to help with recovery or mental alertness. One study shows this latter effect in military personnel who were subjected to high altitude and low temperatures. Subjects were given 50mg/kg tyrosine just before tests and 40 min later. They were subjected to multiple tests and their reaction times as well as tolerances to multiple things were measured as compared to placebo.

Cold tolerance was improved as well as muscular fatigue, perceived distress, sleepiness and headache. [3] So, at least in conditions of cold and high altitude, tyrosine may benefit an athlete from a fatigue perspective as well as focus, but for the rest of us not studying or running stairs in the inter-mountain west, tyrosine may not be super beneficial.

In another look at psychological factors, women were given a stress test 5 hours after having been given a drink with amino acids. The “placebo” contained all essential amino acids, 1 group had no tryptophan, and the 3rd had no phenylalanine or tyrosine. Women in the 3rd group experienced more feelings of depression, anxiety, feeling tired, hostility, being unsure and confusion. [4] The change was noted only after the stressors.

So again tyrosine may be beneficial for some focus and/or good feelings, but it doesn’t appear that it will help you lift more or run any faster. It may help you push through a workout much like caffeine may help a person perceive less exertion and push through a tough workout.

Because of how tyrosine works, it’s a good idea to avoid it if you do decide to take it if you have heart problems. Because it increases norepinephrine and epinephrine the potential to cause problems in people predisposed to them is higher. I read one report once about a man who took tyrosine 500mg with his Adderall on accident and his blood pressure and heart rate went up significantly. While this supplement has been used for things like ADHD it is something that should be respected. Consult a competent medical provider who has experience with these before doing something you might regret if you have heart problems.


Taurine is an amino acid that plays a role in facilitating the digestion/absorption of fats (via formation of bile salts), maintaining cell volume (osmoregulation), neurotransmission/neuromodulation, antioxidant functions, anti-inflammatory/immune functions, anti-arrythmic/cardiac functions and neurological/retinal development.

To say it’s unimportant is like saying pies don’t need filling. It’s utter nonsense and will likely have you thrown out of my house, especially around my birthday because hey, cherry pie. (During this time of year I’ll also accept peach, strawberry rhubarb, pumpkin, coconut cream and a whole host of others, just no pecan)

Even with all of these important functions will taurine give you that edge that you so desire on the field or in life?

Red Bull is a popular drink that markets taurine as part of the formula to help with energy and focus. I think it’s funny that there is the myth that taurine is from bull’s testicles. Definitely “broscience”.

Some people actually think taurine comes from bull testicles. Mmmmm no.

Some people actually think taurine comes from bull testicles. Mmmmm no.

There was a study done by some researchers who had been working with Red Bull and showed that taurine with caffeine increased stroke volume and diastolic inflow (the heart was working more efficiently) compared to two other drinks, one containing no taurine and the other without caffeine or taurine (placebo). [5]

This study had the drinks supplied from the Red Bull company which is a ginormous red flag. Only 12 participants were in the study which doesn’t lend a lot of credence because of the small size and the fact that in the group that took the placebo had a higher diastolic inflow velocity than the caffeine group. That’s almost like comparing two camaros, one with nitrous and one without and saying the camaro without is creating more horsepower. Is it possible? Well if the workers at Chevrolet decide they’re gonna start putting corvette engines in the base camaro model I guess it could happen.

The reason that last point is so interesting is because you would’ve expected it to be lower than the caffeine group because we know caffeine has this effect by itself.

In a similar study, caffeine was given with glucoronolactone and taurine (essentially Red Bull) and compared to placebo while looking at stress tests with motor reaction times and also recorded feelings of well-being. Not surprising, the active group reported more feelings of well-being and had quicker reaction times. [6] But again this doesn’t prove that taurine does anything beneficial as it’s mixed with the other two components.

Another study showed that a drink containing a combination of branched chain amino acids, creatine, taurine, caffeine, and glucuronolactone increased the total reps and volume of exercise. But again in this study the effect cannot be attributed to taurine alone.[7]

Some studies show that taurine may help reduce muscle damage and oxidative stress. [8-10]

One study shows there may be benefit to people with heart failure who exercise if taurine is used.[11]

Taurine doesn’t seem to be quite the ergogenic aid that the supplement companies want you to believe it is. One benefit of taurine is that it can help you keep your levels up if you constantly use beta alanine as they both compete for the same receptors. So if you decide to use beta alanine it might be beneficial to use taurine to keep from becoming depleted. If you have a healthy diet including plenty of quality meat and liver and fish this may not be an issue.

So tyrosine may help with some focus and mental energy and taurine may help with exercise if you have some heart failure. I’m not discounting the fact that having a mental energy jolt isn’t helpful while doing things like lifting heavy or sprints, but it’s possible to get the same effect from caffeine. This is where N=1 studies come in handy. You can try both or one or the other to see if a difference exists. If not you can change it up accordingly.

I personally don’t use either of these. I think the benefit of both can be had from proper diet and/or the right pre workout. But you be the judge. If you have any experiences let me know in the comments.


Disclaimer: All info on this website is for education purposes only. Any dietary or lifestyle changes that readers want to make should be done with the guidance of a competent medical practitioner. The author assumes no responsibility nor liability for the use or dissemination of this information. Anyone who chooses to apply this information for their own personal use does so at their own risk


1.Chinevere, Troy D., et al. “Effects of L-tyrosine and carbohydrate ingestion on endurance exercise performance.” Journal of Applied Physiology 93.5 (2002): 1590-1597.

2.Sutton, Erin E., M. R. Coill, and Patricia A. Deuster. “Ingestion of tyrosine: effects on endurance, muscle strength, and anaerobic performance.” Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 15.2 (2005): 173-85.

3.Banderet, Louis E., and Harris R. Lieberman. “Treatment with tyrosine, a neurotransmitter precursor, reduces environmental stress in humans.” Brain research bulletin 22.4 (1989): 759-762.

4.Leyton, M., et al. “Effects on mood of acute phenylalanine/tyrosine depletion in healthy women.” Neuropsychopharmacology 22.1 (2000): 52-63

5.Baum, Michael, and M. Weiss. “The influence of a taurine containing drink on cardiac parameters before and after exercise measured by echocardiography.” Amino Acids 20.1 (2001): 75-82.

6.Seidl, R., et al. “A taurine and caffeine-containing drink stimulates cognitive performance and well-being.” Amino acids 19.3-4 (2000): 635-642.

7.Hoffman, Jay R., et al. “Effect of a pre-exercise energy supplement on the acute hormonal response to resistance exercise.” The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 22.3 (2008): 874-882.

8..Dawson Jr, R., et al. “The cytoprotective role of taurine in exercise-induced muscle injury.” Amino acids 22.4 (2002): 309-324.

9.Silva, Luciano A., et al. “Taurine supplementation decreases oxidative stress in skeletal muscle after eccentric exercise.” Cell biochemistry and function 29.1 (2011): 43-49.

10.Zhang, M., et al. “Role of taurine supplementation to prevent exercise-induced oxidative stress in healthy young men.” Amino acids 26.2 (2004): 203-207.

11.Beyranvand, Mohamad Reza, et al. “Effect of taurine supplementation on exercise capacity of patients with heart failure.” Journal of cardiology 57.3 (2011): 333-337.