The Correlation Between Obesity, Depression, and Physical Activity

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Obesity is becoming an impending epidemic in our society (Hill, Wyatt, Reed, & Peters, 2003; Kottke, Wu, & Hoffman, 2003). Prevalence of obesity is on the rise and deaths attributable to it are higher than ever. It is estimated by the NIDDK (2003) that 30.5% of adults in the United States are obese and if the rate of increase remains constant, 39% of adults will be obese by the year 2008 (Hill, et al. 2003). In a study conducted by Thorpe, et al. (2004) out of 2681 New York elementary school students 24% were obese, so there is a high prevalence in children as well. Flegal, Williamson, Pamuk, and Rosenberg (2004) discovered that the obese population contributes ten times more deaths per year, about 300,000, than the portion of the country…show more content…
Feeding into and completing this cycle Dixon, et al. (2003) stated that obesity is a cause of depression. Obese persons have a feeling of hopelessness and a low self esteem which causes them to be less physically active because they may see exercise as another place where they will fail (Artal, Sherman, & DiNubile, 1998). Physical activity has the ability to treat mild to moderate symptoms of depression, however, major depressive symptoms should be treated with drug therapy and psycho therapy (Artal, et al. 1998; Fontaine, 2000). Although the mechanistic relationship between depression and physical activity is not known, exercise can give a depressed person a feeling of accomplishment and a sense that they have taken some control back in their lives (Artal, et al. 1998). Intense sessions of physical activity also causes the release of Beta-endorphins which reduces pain and produces a relaxed feeling, which can ease the symptoms of depression (Artal, et al. 1998). The most important concept according to Osness and Mulligan (1998), however, is that short bouts of physical activity is not what is required to relieve depressive symptoms. It is a continuously physically active lifestyle that is more effective. If there is any hope to change the direction of this obesity-depression cycle it needs to be addressed at the policy-making level rather than on an individual basis (Cottam, 2004; Fowler-Brown & Kahwati, 2004).
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