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mirifique's avatar

Is it possible that running/aerobic exercise can actually cause depression?

Asked by mirifique (1511 points ) February 15th, 2010

There is a lot of research purporting that running or intense aerobic exercise is the best anti-depressant, which I noticed first-hand when I started running 30 miles/week over two years ago. But recently I’ve noticed that following a 5–6 mile run, my mood and libido drop substantially; I’ve experimented with this and have found no other cause. I’ve read several articles indicating that running more than short distances can lower testosterone, which in males has a negative effect on mood. However, if I don’t run, I feel like a fat lard, gain weight, and lose energy, but at the same time, my mood and libido return to normal levels. So I’m sort of at a crossroads—I don’t want to stop running, but I also don’t want to get depressed. Have any other males had similar issues, because I feel what I’m experiencing runs counter to the prevailing research on running and depression. Should I look into hormone replacement therapy?

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22 Answers

Captain_Fantasy's avatar

Any links to that research? Everything I’ve read says the opposite.

Judi's avatar

maybe you should try more but shorter bouts.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Exercise has the ability to clear your mind, allowing subconscious thoughts to rise up. Check out what you think about while you’re exercising. Are you subconsciously reviewing past experiences and finding a guilt to deal with? There is something on your mind and you are having difficulty bringing it to the surface? Have your dreams changed lately?

philosopher's avatar

@Captain_Fantasy
I agree with you.
I need to work out to feel good.

philosopher's avatar

@mirifique
It sounds like you are doing too much. You need to run shorter distances. You need some down time and to enjoy your life.
I was never a runner but I use to spend hours at the gym three or times a week. My Social life was there.
I love to exercise.
I am over forty and I work out three or more times per week. I do my Elticipal for thirty minutes to an hour and free weights.
I don’t have the time and energy to do as much anymore.
LOL I am still in good shape.
You are probably pushing yourself too hard.

dpworkin's avatar

Maybe you need to see an endocrinologist to rule out hypogonadotropic hypogonadism. The symptoms can mimic depression.

SeventhSense's avatar

I knew there was a reason I hate to run. I like my boner too much.

TehRoflMobile's avatar

I really don’t know any of the scientific stuff you are talking about.

However I would recommend cross training. Running and just running is not the best you can do for yourself. Cross Training is proven to energize the mind and stimulate the muscles, and keep an athlete healthier. Go to a pickup basketball game once a week, or just find some sport that you like.

I know from running cross country that day after day of just running can be depressing. Every two weeks or so we would play soccer or ultimate Frisbee and it really helped lighten the mind and body.

Your_Majesty's avatar

Only if you do that with force. Or if you moves more than your capacity.

philosopher's avatar

@TehRoflMobile
Crossing Training is suppose to be the best. According to everything I have read.
I agree with you.

ChaosCross's avatar

Try finding a pretty field and then fall asleep.

DrC's avatar

5–6 miles is not that much, but you could cut down to 3 and see how you feel. The question I have for you is what other factors could be contributing to how you feel? Do you restrict your food a lot – maybe not giving yourself enough calories when you run? Are you getting sufficient vitamins? What is your body fat? Do you know what your testosterone levels are? Testosterone usually doesn’t drop unless someone allows their body fat to get too low and they don’t ingest any fats (that’s what hormones are made from). I don’t know how old you are, but it seems that you are being very quick to jump to thinking about hormone replacement. That has it’s own set of side effects.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I’ve found the exact opposite to be true. Strenuous exercise causes my symptoms of depression to lift somewhat for a few hours. As to libido, the antidepressant medication I have to take (Paxil) has utterly destroyed it. I consider that a blessing in disguise though, as I’m basically a loner now and don’t wish to have any further romantic relationships.

bmcg's avatar

I am having the same difficulties now. I am training for a marathon and after my long training runs, recently, 18 miles, I spent the day dealing with spontanteous tears that choke me up for a minute or two and then go away. It repeated itself 6 or 7 times through out the day. I tried showering, eating, I substanitally replenished my fluids, so I am at a lost. I have heard of post-marathon depression but nothing about training. It could have to do with my food intake or loss of weight, but honestly, I have been eating like a race horse just to maintain weight. My race is in 5 weeks and concerned about the post-marathon depression if this is happening in training

Pandora's avatar

Complete physical exhaustion can leave you feeling depressed. You probably get dehydrated when you over do it and your body is probably over heated. Its too much of a shock for your body. I like to think of the body as a vehicle. If you drive it really hard, you have a better chance of choking your engine.
Ever notice how emotional we get when we feel sick and or feverish. Over doing a work out may do the same. Nutrients and water are not going in fast enough to replace what you are using. Of couse I don’t know this to be scientifically true but I only know that feeling depleted, for me, can play games with my emotions. It may be hormonal changes. I can see that happening. Since the body is constantly repairing itself it could be that by over running you are pushing your body beyond its limits and it doesn’t know how to handle the hundreds of processes to keep you in shape during these extreme work outs. Remember that your body always will try to take care of vital organs first during extreme stress.
Simply put your stressing your body and your mind should feel that.

ashsaintsfan's avatar

excersise releases endorphins, and the only reason you should feel bad after that would be psychological, most likely. maybe you’re overly exhausted or spend too much time running. limit it to, at the most, one hour or five miles a day. take leisure time as well. Ive been a runner since high school and i now run marathons. There have been times where i went through bouts of depression…running wears on your body…simple as that.

gm_pansa's avatar

Yes! Especially if you’re fat like me and don’t lose weight after the fact. :)

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dabbler's avatar

You might be too tired. If you don’t think your workout is really that hard, get your heart checked. You could be working with a handicap you’re unaware of.

Rock2's avatar

Minor Depression has many causes. Not knowing you and not being a doctor I don’t know exactly what your problem(s) is/are however depression can be physical or psychological or both. This may take a while to sort out. Start by seeing your family doctor. Being evaluated by a psychitrist wouldn’t hurt if you can afford it. Everyone is different. Other peoples experiences may be misleading. Keep trying to solve the puzzel. Good luck.

momboteri's avatar

I agree with a number of these responses though I would give my answer in a word: Overtraining. You may want to look up symptoms of “overtraining” and see if any of the other symptoms (besides depression) are what you experiencing. Also, make sure you are eating properly for the amount you are training. Low blood sugar can have an effect on mood. And make sure you are drinking enough water before, during, and after training. Dehydration (even a little) can also have an effect on mood.

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