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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1591021928
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591021926
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #135,602 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It is generally accepted in the mental-health community that exercise can be an antidote to depression. Nor is it much in dispute that exercise is beneficial to one’s overall health. So it’s rather odd that Johnsgard, professor emeritus of psychology at San Jose State University, insists on declaring that the connection between good mood and exercise is new. Nonetheless, his volume is a useful consideration of the evidence; it presents experimental studies and case studies that trace the role of exercise in elevating mood, as well as studies comparing the effect of exercise with other forms of treatment, such as talk therapy and medication. Getting into more specific questions, he cites evidence that aerobic and anaerobic exercise are equally effective, even for the most severely depressed. In terms of the relative efficacy of exercise and Zoloft, he offers only one study (and of only this one drug) as evidence that exercise has longer-lasting effects in elevating mood than the drug. While Johnsgard is a proselytizer, he’s not dogmatic—he acknowledges that exercise alone is not always enough to deal with depression or anxiety, that it should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy, and that in some cases it just isn’t effective. The author examines how to motivate oneself to exercise, how to exercise well, and how to deal with the possible risks of exercise. Covering all the relevant issues makes this a very useful handbook for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety.
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"...tackles an important and intensely studied subject...worthwile..." -- Pacific Northwest, The Seattle Times Magazine, Sept. 12, 2004

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By C. Fink on July 29, 2004
Format: Paperback
I came to Johnsgard's book as a recreational runner with none of the psychological disorders he addresses in his book (none diagnosed, anyway). Actually, the title of this delightful book is something of a misnomer; only one of the four sections deals specifically with mental health. In the other three sections, Johnsgard-a psychology professor and a long-time distance runner-takes what I would call an anthropological view of the sport, addressing, as he does, the history of Homo Sapiens and our natural inclination to run. Johnsgard's book is a training manual, a DSM4, and a natural history all in one.

What I appreciated most about the book-and there's plenty here for expert runners as well as beginners-was the author's unique perspective. Using both clinical data and anthropological evidence, Johnsgard shows us how far we've come from Shangri-La, and how running can help us return. The author is a fellow homo-naturalis, so if you're homo-progressus, you're not going to find your techno-manna here. Johnsgard debunks the protein diet fads and gives evidence that elements of the hunter-gatherer existence are necessary for physical and mental well-being.

Johnsgard is foremost a good storyteller, and beginning with book's prologue, he incorporates elements of case study to illuminate his topics. The result is a thoroughly interesting read about the science and history of running. And while the author is always knowledgeable about his subjects-from existential drift to cardiorespiratory fitness-he's humble too; one gets the sense that he's learned all this news the hard way, and at some personal expense. Johnsgard comes across as the kind of runner you'd like to meet on the trail.

Chances are you'll see yourself often in these pages, and that you'll come away with at least a few ideas for self-improvement through exercise.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Cate on June 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
The reviewer below, C Fink, wrote a great review of this book, but I have one comment to add: although the author is a runner and some of the studies he cites are based on runners, the author states clearly that any aerobic exercise is fine. I'm not a runner and as I was reading, I didn't think of it as a running book (I prefer bicycling and hiking/walking).

I've read quite a few books on depression and anxiety. Although many of them helped me to learn and understand, this book was the most practical/pragmatic. Move your body, breathe hard, you'll feel better. (As the author states, one may also need therapy and medication.)

I feel like giving this book to people living with depression and/or anxiety. It could make a huge difference.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By JJ McClay on December 16, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is one of the best books I have read on depression - and I've read a boatload. Keeping in mind that different people respond to information in different ways, choose this book if you like reading facts, statistics, scientific studies and their application to depression (don't let that description lead you to believe the book is dry or dull, just that this is not a wishy-washy book filled with reader testimonies or inspiring images). I especially enjoyed his meta-analysis of multiple studies which he used to illustrate many different aspects of the relationship between depression and exercise, and also his discussion of diet and weightloss in a depression context. Whilst his tone is factual and serious (with everything referenced and clearly backed up), everything is still well explained for the layperson (such as myself). I highly reccommend this book.
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