Can physical activity help depression?

A fellow caregiver asked...

Does physical activity help depression? My father-in-law has been suffering depression for last five years. He's taken to sleeping until noon and my mother-in-law leaves him alone while she plays golf. I'm worried that this lack of stimulation is just making his depression worse. A senior day care center would at least provide some activity for him but he refuses to go. Shall we attempt to force him to go or just let him sleep all day?

Expert Answer

I agree with Missy that you should take your father-in-law in for a physical exam as soon as possible.  As she pointed out, he may be suffering from other, undiagnosed health problems. At the least, the physician should be able to offer suggestions for more effective treatment of his depression. 

I also agree with the other readers' excellent ideas about involving your father-in-law in activities and asking for his help and advice. It sounds like he's lonely and bored, as well as depressed, and whatever you can do to give him a sense of involvement and purpose should lift his spirits, at least a little.

You said that he refuses to go to your local senior center, but I wonder if he would be open to trying other activities, like volunteer work, or classes at the local community college?  Check out our local directory to find out more about resources in your area.

Keep in touch and let us know how it goes.