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There is no argument that exercise is good for the heart. For years now, doctors have made it a habit of recommending exercise for weight loss, control of diabetes and improvements in heart function.
Now there is news that exercise can also be a great therapy for depressed people.
In a recent study, Dr Madhukar Trivedi and colleagues, from the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas noted a marked improvement in their depressed patients who were encouraged to exercise (1).
Depression is a life-long chronic disorder and in general recovery rates are slow and not everyone see improvements even with the latest antidepressants. To improve the mood, many doctors often prescribe a second treatment to achieve remission of their depression. While these secondary treatments do help an additional twenty percent of patients, the medications are prohibitively expensive and also have very unpleasant side effects (2).
Thus, these doctors decided to formally look at exercise as part of treatment of depression. In their study, it became obvious that some patients who exercised while continuing to take their antidepressant felt much better physically and emotionally. So exercise does appear to be an additional treatment option.
However there are still some drawbacks to exercise. Motivation is a big factor and the study did have a high drop-out rate. Simply asking patients to go home and walk has not been shown to work. Finally, the doctors noticed that even when patients were compliant with exercise, not all of them achieved a full remission. Failure rates were particularly high in women with a history of depression.
In any case, Dr. Trivedi says exercise is a good option for patients who are receptive to this form of therapy. Side effects from exercise are negligible and there are other physiological benefits. In addition exercise is a lot cheaper than medicines and can also be fun.
1.Trivedi et al. Exercise as an augmentation treatment for nonremitted major depressive disorder: a randomized, parallel dose comparison.