Online program promotes exercise to combat depression

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

CLEARFIELD -- From 1940 to 2012 there have been 102,000 research and scholarly articles written about depression and 99,000 about anxiety.

Mental and emotional distress are now at an all-time high, according to Jacob Hess, co-founder of in Clearfield. People are suffering more and more from intense depression and anxiety as well as eating and attention disorders. While thousands of research studies have looked the many contributors to depression and anxiety, very few people in the public are aware of the findings. Genetics, immune system factors, our surrounding environment and brain changeability all play a role.

"The current research confirms a lot of hope for those facing depression," Hess said. "Many people are being told 'this is just your life' or 'this is just your brain' with an insinuation that things will be permanent."

Hess said the scientific research tells a different story, from a changeable brain to a whole host of life adjustments that can begin to shape and sculpt the body.

"There are legitimate, scientific reasons for hope in sustainable recovery," Hess said.

A 10-week online course at based on 35 interviews with professionals and researchers covers these bases for anyone who is interested. Hess said participants will come away with a clear sense of the range of potential contributors to depression, alongside a variety of ways available to seek relief. The class also suggests participants add an exercise program. Exercise, Hess said, has been shown to improve mood and help alleviate depression.

"We've paid careful attention to the guidelines and recommendations coming out of the research literature following other similar programs in Great Britain and elsewhere," Hess said. "To our knowledge, this is the first time this program has been replicated in Utah. We will be measuring results of the program and sharing them."

The research recommends three one-hour workout sessions a week including aerobic and strength training.

"How exactly exercise benefits those with depression is a subject of a lot of research. Everything from the flood of positive chemicals in the brain, to reducing inflammation, to balancing out hormones has been suggested," Hess said. "Emotionally speaking, there's almost an immediate lift reported in those who begin a program like this."

The body is definitely involved in depression. There are two new discoveries in that regard, that are exciting, Hess said. When the brain and body are subjected to unremitting, chronic stress of some kind, from a variety of possible sources, the result for most people is fairly predictable: the stress chemical cortisol overpowers the good stuff in the brain and shifts the brain into a different state.

In addition, Hess said, there is growing evidence that inflammation throughout the body and in the brain plays a role in depression as well. "We just finished reviewing the medical literature on anything that's been shown to potentially contribute to depression. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, there are many factors that can play a role in depression and increase our vulnerability," he said. "Everything from various biological and medical conditions, to environmental toxins and nutritional deficiencies, to physical inactivity, lack of sunlight and chronic stress. And that's just the beginning We've summarized what we've learned so far in a questionnaire on our website that anyone can take."

The online program begins in late July. The cost is $250.

"That being said, we will not turn away anyone for financial reasons following a sliding scale based on what people can afford," Hess said. He said his organization is not-for-profit.

Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be the work out days all at Performax Gym in Clearfield, 1659 E 1400 South, Clearfield. In addition, there is one meeting a week where additional related aspects to a comprehensive depression recovery program are covered, such as mindfulness and nutrition.

To sign up, email Hess at or call 801-712-1346.

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