Exercise as a Treatment Method for Depression

Posted: July 22, 2014 at 3:22 pm

shutterstock_124414732-720x720Traditional treatments for depression include psychotherapy or medication; exercise has been found to be a successful third alternative. In a 1990 meta-analysis (an analysis that statistically summarized eighty studies of exercise and depression), a research team reached the following conclusions:

  1. Exercise serves as a beneficial antidepressant both immediately and over a long-term period.
  2. Although exercise decreased depression among all populations studied, it is most effective in decreasing depression for those most physically and/or psychologically impaired at the start of the exercise program.
  3. The exercise component of a rehabilitation program significantly decreases depression across all age categories; however the older people of the group experience a greater decrease in depression
  4. Exercise is an equally effective antidepressant for both genders.
  5. Walking/jogging were the most frequent forms of exercise that had been researched; however, all modes of exercise which had been examined (anaerobic as well as aerobic), were effective in treating depression
  6. More lengthy and frequent exercise programs are associated with greater decreases in depression than short, infrequent bouts of exercise.
  7. The most powerful antidepressant effect occurs when exercise and psychotherapy are combined to create a comprehensive rehabilitation program.

In conclusion, studies have shown that using the treatments in combination significantly improved the condition of depression. As demonstrated by the aforementioned research, exercise has positive effects on the human psyche. These positive effects are also evident in the sleep cycle. The next article in our Exercise and Mental Health series will explore the relationship between exercise and sleep, so be sure to come back next month for more information.

Babyak, M. A., Blumenthal, J. A., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Doraiswamy, P. M., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Baldewicz, T. T., & Krishnan, K. R. (2000). Exercise treatment for major depression: Maintenance of therapeutic benefit at 10 months.Psychosomatic Medicine, Vol. 62. pp. 633-638.

Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M.A., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Herman, S., Khatri, P., Waugh, R., Napolitano, M. A., Forman, L. M., Appelbaum, M., Doraiswamy, P. M., & Krishnan, K. R. (1999). Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression. Archives of Internal Medicine, Vol. 159 pp. 2349-2356.

North, T. C., P. McCullagh, and Z. V. Tran. (1990). Effect of exercise on depression. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews Vol. 18pp. 379-415.