Treating Depression with Meditation Plus Running

My digital subscription to the The New York Times often leads me to think about health and fitness.  This recent article about treating mood disorders through meditation combined with running is interesting.  Here’s the primary source for my comments :  Meditation Plus Running as a Treatment for Depression – The New York Times

images-1A disclaimer- I am a long term meditator.  I continue to practice Transcendental Meditation for an hour a day, as I have for the past for 44 years (two half-hour sessions daily).   I was also fortunate to have had the opportunity to have acquired several advanced TM meditation techniques.

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I am also a fitness buff.  OK, I’m a fitness nut.  Since Jan. 1, 2016 I’ve averaged an 80 minute daily workout just about every day ( 84 sessions in three months). I am blessed to live in this time in history where we have something like the Strava Premium app that allow me to monitor my activity level and keep it up. I can’t recommend Strava enough!  It has been immensely useful to me in improving my engagement with the outdoors.  Here is  one of my 2016  training records graphics that is reinforcement for my continuing bicycling and hiking/jogging practice:

screenshot 18Check out the reader’s comments section after finishing the NYTimes article.

As one reader thoughtfully points out, the answers to some of the concluding questions in the article are already well established, and have been for thousands of years.

The science of yoga established that exercises and breathing techniques are performed in preparation for meditation.   When I was taught TM , we were also encouraged to engage in a brief 15 minute program of asanas (postures)  followed by a few minutes of pranayama (breathing techniques) before closing our eyes to start the practice.

Another way to think about the relationship between the two is this: rigorous exercise engages the fight/flight response, while meditation affects the parasympathetic nervous system ( reductions in blood pressure, breathing , heart rate).

Over the many years that I have been pairing exercise and meditation, I have gone both routes. At this point in my life I generally have a vigorous workout, then shower, and sit to practice a half hour of TM.  In my opinion, my meditation feels deeper than when I meditate first and then go at it outside.

My critique of this study is the same as my critique of other studies about meditation.  Many of these studies assign the term “meditation” to a broad range of mental practices  that have little in common with each other.  Some are concentration techniques, some are ” thinking about thinking”,  and at this point, I can tell you that what I am doing is  neither.  I can assure you, it is definitely not “hard work”, as one of the commenters states.

We are all exploring our own personal alternatives to stay on top of the tsunami of depression that modern society engenders.

I suggest you will need to do your own research, listen to your body, measure, and act accordingly.  But do take action, and consider pulling back the bow with a form of meditation that is enchanting enough that you might even continue the practice.

 

About Tom Jamrog

I'm sixty-seven and live in the Maine woods. I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2007, the Pacific Crest Trail in 2010, Vermont's Long Trail in 2011, the Continental Divide Trail in 2013, the Camino Portugese (2016), and Newfoundland's East Coast Trail (2017) . I am outdoors every day. I offer guided backpacking trips and classes in Maine, through "Uncle Tom's Guided Adventures".
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