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High Intensity Training As An Alternative Treatment For Depression

High Intensity Training As An Alternative Treatment for Depression


Clinical depression is unfortunately a common occurrence in the United States. According to statistics from the U.S. National Comorbidity Survey, 16% of Americans will suffer from a clinically defined depressive disorder during the course of their lifetime and conventional treatments can be often difficult to administer. Among the cases looked at by the Comorbidity Survey only 22% received adequate treatment leaving the majority without proper treatment or diagnosis.(1)  Further compounding the problem is the high rate of adverse effects that come from the use of antidepressants and the high dropout rates among users. This phenomena is particularly stronger among older adults who studies have shown to be less tolerant of antidepressants than their younger counterparts. Meta-analysis of antidepressant trials in older adults found that the dropout rate was 25% with 60% experiencing what were termed adverse effects during an average treatment period of only 5 weeks.(2) That being said the search for viable and nontoxic alternatives for the treatment of depression should be a key priority in mental health research, especially for the older members of our population. Exercise has thus far been positively viewed as a potential alternative treatment with most of the research focusing on the use of aerobic exercise. However randomized controlled trials have also identified significant improvements in clinically depressed older and younger adults, both male and female through the use of resistance training. (3-7)


Weight Lifting Found To Be As Effective As Aerobics In Relieving Depression


One study conducted at the University of Rochester and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that weight lifting was as effective as aerobic exercise in improving clinical depression.(6) The study involved 40 women, all clinically diagnosed with a depressive disorder who were randomly assigned to three groups for 8 weeks- one group with a exercise regimen involving running (aerobic exercise), the second group employing a weight lifting program while the final group remained on a waitlist as a control doing no extra activities during the two month period. Subjects were reassessed during the course of the study, after the study and then at 1, 7 and 12 month follow up intervals. The results were consistent across the board with both exercise regimes- running (aerobics) and weight lifting significantly reducing depression as compared to the control group even though no truly significant fitness changes were seen in either group. The study concluded that both forms of exercise were equally effective and that an aerobic effect was not responsible for improvements in depression among people who exercise.


Exercise Intensity Is Directly Related To Relief Of Depressive Symptoms


Another study published in the Journal of Gerontology sought to discover whether there was a relationship between the intensity of the exercise performed and the degree of reduction in depression among older adults. In this randomized control trial sixty older adults with diagnosed depressive disorders were assigned to three groups. Group one involved supervised progressive resistance high intensity training at a threshold of 80% of their maximum load for three days a week for eight-week period. Group two involved low intensity progressive resistance training at 20% of maximum load for the same length of time and group three received standard care from their GP with a mandate to not exercise for the duration of the trial. The study found an astounding 50% reduction in the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression in 61% of the high intensity training group and that ‘strength gain was directly related to the reduction in depressive symptoms’. (8) Vitality quality of life scale improved more in the high intensity group than the others and while sleep quality was improved in all participants the greatest relative change took place in the high intensity training group.


With such impressive results there is a real need for much further research into whether this could be a clinically prescribed treatment for depression and possibly an alternative to the use of anti-depressant medication. One important factor that needs to be studied is the duration of exercise sessions required to affect a reduction in depressive symptoms as all the exercise protocols used in the trials lasted for the standard time of 60 minutes each. One of the biggest drawbacks to the use of exercise as a tool for people suffering from depression is the fact that the motivation required to train for an hour three times a week is hard to come by within the general population, much less an individual suffering from depressive disorders. However, with so much research showing that short high intensity sessions, lasting anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes can bring about increases in strength, muscle mass, endurance and coordination it might be a more viable alternative for individuals who would find it difficult to stick to a longer regime.(9,10,11) In addition some data suggest that ‘a low-frequency, high intensity approach to training is associated with greater long-term adherence as compared with a high-frequency, low-intensity approach.'(12)


High Intensity Training Vs Antidepressant Treatments For Depression


A very large number of randomized trials have found that fifty percent of all patients treated with antidepressant medication will show some signs of improvement in their depressive symptoms regardless of the class of medication used and the other half will respond to a combination of antidepressants. [13,14,15,16] These randomized trials are conducted by the pharmaceutical companies and in the real world the efficacy is notably lower. Other studies show that without antidepressants approximately 20 to 40 out of 100 people who took a placebo noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks. With antidepressants, 40 to 60 out of 100 people who took an antidepressant noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks, in other words, antidepressants improved symptoms in about 20 more people out of 100. [20,21,22] Antidepressants work by blocking the reuptake of serotonin, noradrenaline or dopamine, however, as good as this might sound, the reality is that research has shown that antidepressants only temporarily suppress symptoms and do not cure depression. [17] That is, although antidepressants are effective in the treatment of acute depressive episodes and is preventive so long as its use is maintained, no published findings to date suggest that antidepressants reduce future risk of depressive episodes once you stop using them. [18] Moreover, the lack of evidence that antidepressant treatment reduces the risk of developing subsequent depressive episodes suggests that the changes in brain function and structure that are thought to result from antidepressant treatment do not confer protection against the return of symptoms once antidepressant drug therapy is discontinued. [13]


Like all medications, antidepressants can have side effects and over half of all people who use antidepressants report experiencing side effects. Some of these side effects are believed to be a direct consequence of the medication’s effect on the brain and are relatively similar among various drugs of the same group. Patients who are taking antidepressants sometimes have a dry mouth, headaches, feel faint, anxious, and have a decreased sex drive and during long term use, the most troubling adverse effects are sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and sleep disturbance.[23-38] Contrast this with high intensity training protocols which  have been shown to increase positive affect and well-being, and to reduce state anxiety and distress in anywhere from 60% or more of those involved in studies. High intensity training protocols also have known side effects such as increases in VO2 peak endurance, strength increases, increased lean muscle mass and weight loss when diet is controlled.[39-52] The effect of high intensity training on depressive states is acute, but unlike the use of antidepressants, it is something that can be done indefinitely as there are no adverse side effects, whereas with antidepressants, individuals who are experiencing adverse reactions may be apt to discontinue their antidepressant prematurely, never achieving full remission and increasing their risk of relapse and or of discontinuation reactions.[53] None of which is an issue for high intensity training.



Almost three decades ago, I created a system of personal training called Naturally Intense High Intensity Training. A system of high intensity ten-minute workouts performed three times a week that have been effective in doing everything from helping clients lose 100 lbs or more to helping athletes increase endurance and sports performance and help men and women in average shape progress to the point of being able to successfully compete in bodybuilding and physique related contests. It has been exceptionally successful in terms of weight loss and body transformation, which was its initial purpose as is a way of training I developed for myself as a way to realize my dream of becoming a competitive bodybuilder without resorting to the use of performance enhancing drugs of any kind. What I was not expecting, was the feedback I received from clients over the years who were using antidepressants and were able to stop using them after this form of high intensity training became a regular part of their lives. As someone who worked for years in clinical mental health settings, I would never advocate that anyone abandon their medication and replace it with high intensity training. However, having trained hundreds of men and women over the past 27 years, the rate of success among those who were able to wean themselves off or significantly reduce the use of antidepressant medication under the supervision of their clinical health care providers has been high enough that it is hard for it to go unnoticed.


Why Is High Intensity Training Not Implemented Universally As A Treatment for Depression


In terms of research, much more is needed but it may strike you as puzzling that such a noninvasive and seemingly effective method of relieving depression would not be front and center in the toolset for those suffering from clinical depression. However, as in the case of the economics of obesity, there are enormous profits to be made from the use of pharmaceutical interventions. Global revenue for antidepressants is projected to grow to nearly $17 billion by 2020 even with the growing number of lower priced generic forms of antidepressants, and studies find that antidepressant use contributes significantly to the increase in spending while contributing little to traditional measures of quality relief of depressive symptoms.[13] Many argue that the lack of research and promotion on non-drug related studies on readily available modalities such as high intensity exercise, stems primarily from the enormous profit that depression provides to pharmaceutical companies. Companies with powerful governmental lobbies have considerable power over mental health policy and protocols and that there would be little to be gained if depression could be treated simply by having someone train hard three days a week. The other problem is study set up. It is very easy and costs little to study aerobic exercise protocols, as having a set number of people on a treadmill at a set intensity for a prolonged period is relatively easy to monitor. Factor in the costs of trainers for a large group of people who all have to train individually the same way over a prolonged period, and study complexity and costs go up tremendously, but if there was enough of an interest, it would indeed be done. Regardless of the reasons, high intensity training protocols are indeed a potentially invaluable tool that could in some way help millions suffering from depression.


High Intensity Incline Presses! Give this a try!

Start with relatively light weight (as it gets heavy really fast) and execute as you see in the video with five 5 second holds followed immediately by 6 reps.

The isometric holds really increase the intensity and for this exercise I "only" used 135lb as like I said, it gets heavy really fast!

Give it a try next time you train chest (and use a spotter just to be safe) and let me know how it goes!

Still training and I hope you are too!!! Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguefiteness #roguerack #nuobell #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalfemalebodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #chestworkout #chestday #homegym ##naturalbodybuildingvideo #highintensitytrainingtips ##naturalbodybuildingtips

43 6

"Kevin Flyes" High Intensity Compound Set

A demonstration of Kevin Flyes with an isometric hold and ending with eccentric presses!

A glimpse into a regular day of our high intensity training in what @egcitrin and I have come to affectionately call the Batcave.

This is a classic chest training example and in Erika's words,

"The worse part is that Kevin pushes down on the weights at end!"

(Which I do!)

Give this combination a try next time you train chest and let us know how it goes!!! Still training and hope you are too!!!

Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguefiteness #roguerack #nuobell #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #girlswholift #naturalfemalebodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #chestworkout #chestday #homegym ##naturalbodybuildingvideo #nuobell #highintensitytrainingtips

92 23

Can You Be Fit Doing Only High Intensity Weight Training?

(Click on my bio link or story link to see the full video)

The answer is an emphatic yes and in this video I go over some of the stories of what I and my clients have been able to do training with short high intensity workouts and no cardio whatsoever.

In the fitness field there tends to be a very myopic perception that training your muscles and training your heart are somehow separate activities, and they are not.

It's just that most people weight train at intensities that are not high enough to create a significant cardiovascular effect, but this isn't the case with high intensity training.

And I hope this video gives you some insight as to just how high a degree of cardiovascular fitness you can achieve with high intensity weight training, and it will also help you get stronger, increase your muscle mass and reduce your body fat. So up that intensity next time you head to the gym and thanks in advance for watching!!! Excelsior #naturallyintense

Click on my bio link or the story links to see the video.

#naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingtips #zerocardio #nocardio #highintensitytraining #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #fitness #hit #drugfreebodybuilding #highintensityworkouts #workouts #weighttraining

79 7

Preacher Pad Dumbbell Curls.

30lbs for three sets of 10 nonstop and not too easy reps!

The Preacher Pad is an excellent addition to any home gym or any gym for that matter as it's an easy way to isolate your biceps without much in the way of equipment.

This is the last of three nonstop sets of 10 reps each arm with 30lbs and the final reps were an experience in fire!

Try three nonstop sets of 10 full range preacher curls next time you train your arms and let me know how it goes!

Still training and I hope you are too!!! Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguefiteness #roguerack #nuobell #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #armworkout #bicepsworkout #preacherpad #naturalbodybuildingtips #biceps #armtraining #preachercurl

51 3

A New Year's Wish For You!

May you have a year filled with light
Family, good friends and laughter.
May every wound in the coming year
Be no more than a skinned knee on
The road to success and self-improvement.
May you start afresh every day like a New Year.
And may the passing years not rob
You of your inner child nor fill you
With a forgetfulness of the fact
That you are powerful beyond belief.

Both @egcitrin and I would like to wish you and your family a truly healthy and happy 2023!

Thank you so much for another year of support and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense #happynewyear2023

#newyeargreetings #happynewyeargreetings2023 #newyearwish #newyearwishes #happynewyear #happynewyears #happy2023 #fitness #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #fitover40 #girlswholift #excelsior

105 24

How To Make Your New Year Resolutions Stick!

(Link in bio)

As you know, most New Year Resolutions end in abject failure and while I am not a fan myself as I tend to do what I intend to do regardless of time of year, I have had many clients who started up as a result of a New Years Resolution and they did exceptionally well.

One client lost over 100lbs and he started as a result of a resolutions, and all of my clients who did well had one common denominator which is what I believe enabled them to be successful against the odds.

In this video, I will share with you what that attribute is and also go over the mindset that you should have when making a resolution.

Click the link in my bio to watch!

Thanks for another year of truly stellar support and Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#newyearsresolution #newyearresolution #newyearsresolution2023 #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #homegym ##naturalbodybuildingvideo #fitness

46 7

The Problem With Bodybuilding Supplements

Especially for natural athletes, it's absurd to think that the hundreds of advertisements and promotions of everything from creatine to protein shakes and preworkouts featuring bodybuilders and fitness characters who are clearly using performance enhancing drugs could ever be honest ones.

Not when those promoting the supplements look the way they do because they use drugs, and it's time we stop looking for magic potions to realize our fitness goals as it takes away from the fact that we need to do the work.

It also takes away form the fact that we are powerful beyond measure and that we already have all the tools we need to succeed.

So let's start the New Year by focusing on what we can do unaided and not look for a crutch to walk when we all have the ability to fly!

Stay natural and Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #supplements #supplementsdontwork #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingtips #drugfreebodybuilding

57 19

Happy Holidays!!!

@egcitrin and I would like to wish you and your family all the compliments of the holiday season and a very Merry Christmas!

All the best from all of us at Naturally Intense and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#happyholidays #merrychristmas #holidaygreeting #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #girlswholift

139 25

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Click for a free copy!

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Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to network TV, Kevin Richardson is the international fitness consultant for UNICEF, natural bodybuilding champion, creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training and one of the top personal trainers in New York City.

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Exercise- A Natural Treatment For Depression And Anxiety


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Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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