Posted on Jun 02, 2020, 3 p.m.
A recent study published in Current Sports Medicine Reports suggests that exercise is often an effective option to help to prevent or treat depression: exercise can be medicine.
“The evidence of the use of physical activity and exercise for the management of depression is substantial and growing fast,” said Felipe Barreto Schuch of the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil and Brendon Stubbs of King’s College London, the authors of the article.
Schuch says that the inclusion of exercise as a key component in treatment options is often given low priority despite the substantial evidence supporting the positive effects of exercise on management of depression.
Globally depression is a significant issue, having a huge impact on the mental and physical well being of people from all walks of life, incurring significant expenses for society. Treatments tend to focus on medication and psychotherapy which can have limitations such as the different reactions to antidepressants and not all patients responding to the medications or to psychotherapy; which inspired the team of researchers to provide an updated overview of the mounting evidence supporting incorporating exercise into treatments for depression.
“There is growing recognition that lifestyle behaviors, such as physical activity and exercise, partially contribute to the risk of developing depression and can be useful strategies for treating depression, reducing depressive symptoms, improving quality of life, and improving health outcomes,” the researchers wrote.
Studies have linked higher levels of physical exercise to decreased symptoms of depression: Data was analyzed from 49 prospective studies involving close to 267,000 patients, finding that exercise could help to decrease the odds of developing depression by 17%, and the protective effect was significant in all countries across patient subgroups.
Studies have also shown that exercise can be used as a natural treatment for depression, and that a single session can help to reduce the symptoms of major depressive disorder: Data was analyzed from 25 randomized trials involving close to 1,500 patients with depression who were assigned to exercise training or comparison groups; findings showed that those who exercised experienced a “very large and significant antidepressant effect.”
Exercise can have a positive effect on depressive symptoms that is supported by an increasing body of evidence, yet it is not part of clinical recommendations for treating the mental disorder. The researchers consider that this must be addressed in order to move forward with better treatment options and preventative measures for depression.
For those with depression, actually beginning and sticking to an exercise program can be challenging, supervision and support from health and fitness professionals along with the support and encouragement from friends and family may help to increase the chances of success.
Exercise on a regular basis can help to ease symptoms of depression by releasing feel good neurochemical endorphins; taking the mind off of the cycle of worries; building confidence; gaining more social interaction; and it develops a routine that is a healthier outlet which can be used as a coping mechanism.
There is a wide scope of biological, clinical, psychological and social factors that can affect how a person will respond to exercise therapy; meaning that exercise may not be similarly viable as a treatment for every person with depression, and it is important to take each factor into account so that an individual can be matched with appropriate treatment options.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.