Research Review by Dr. Jennifer Richardson: The Benefits of Exercise in Reducing Depression
In a research study by Lynette Craft and Frank Pertna (2004) that was published in the Primary Care Companion Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the benefits of exercise for individuals who were clinically depressed was reviewed across 37 independent studies. Study results found that adopting a regular exercise routine was effective in significantly reducing symptoms of depression for both men and women of all ages. Furthermore, one of the studies reviewed compared individuals who were prescribed SSRI antidepressant medication for depression symptoms to those who participated in an exercise group either walking or jogging on a treadmill for thirty minutes three times a week for 16 weeks. Results of the study found that both groups experienced a significant decline in depression symptoms with no significant differences found between the exercise-only or medication-only groups. At a 10 month follow up, those individuals who continued to participate in a regular exercise routine reported significantly lower rates of depression symptoms compared to the other study participants. Lastly, the positive effects on mood as a result of exercise were found to be independent of fitness gains suggesting that weight loss and/or improved muscle tone are not the cause of the mood improvement and the physical activity itself is what is most important. The take home message based on study findings: If you are someone who is currently struggling with depression, then you should seriously consider adding a regular exercise routine to your existing treatment goals (after checking with your physician first, of course!). You are likely to be pleasantly surprised by how much better you feel after several weeks of consistent moderate intensity exercise.