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Stanford Medicine

Health and Fitness, Mental Health

Exercise may be effective in treating depression

Research, along with plenty of personal anecdotes from octogenarians, clearly shows that exercise is good for your health. But investigators are still working to understand how physical activity affects a variety of mental and physical disorders and what role exercise may play in preventing and treating certain conditions.

In one such study, conducted at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, researchers have shown that patients diagnosed with depression, and whose symptoms do not improve with a single antidepressant medication, may benefit from engaging in a regular exercise.

The four-year study involved participants aged 18 to 70 who had been diagnosed with depression but had not remitted with treatment using a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Volunteers were divided into two groups and assigned different 12-week fitness programs, which consisted of supervised and home-based sessions. They also maintained an online exercise journal and met with a psychiatrist during the study. According to the university release:

By the end of the investigation, almost 30 percent of patients in both groups achieved full remission from their depression, and another 20 percent significant displayed improvement, based on standardized psychiatric measurements. Moderate exercise was more effective for women with a family history of mental illness, whereas intense exercise was more effective with women whose families did not have a history of the disease. For men, the higher rate of exercise was more effective regardless of other characteristics.

The research adds to a growing body of research showing that physical activity might prove useful in treating depression.

Previously: Study shows exercise can boost new moms’ well-being and Tai chi linked to mental-health boost, but more study is needed
Photo by John Loo

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