If you’ve ever wondered if regular exercise can really help with depression, here is some inspiring news that will make you smile. Studies have shown that a routine exercise regimen can actually benefit people with mild to moderate depression as much as prescription drugs. In addition to being on par with prescription meds, those with emotional problems may also find that the effects of exercise will last longer than those of antidepressants. Let’s take a look out the research behind these revelations as well as the exercises that are best for fighting depression.
Study on Exercise and Depression
In a study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine tests were set up to assess the effects of exercise on patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) compared to standard antidepressant medications such as SSRIs. In the 16-week trial period, 156 men and women were randomly assigned one of three programs: aerobic exercise, antidepressants, or exercise and antidepressants. The patients underwent evaluations of depression before and after treatment to determine outcomes of depression and treatment.
Astonishingly, those who exercised exclusively and those who took drugs showcased the same rating scales of depression at the 16-week mark. People in all three groups were no longer classified as having major depression and these studies underscore the necessity, or lack thereof, prescription drugs such as antidepressants. The study did reveal however that the participants who received medication alone did have the fastest response.
In a follow-up study addressing depression relapse amongst the same participants it was found that those patients who exercised regularly were less likely to relapse. This supplementary study even took into account which treatment the patients were on originally, which did not matter provided the healthy patients maintained some kind of ongoing exercise regimen.
The conclusion of the study reveals that ongoing exercise can be used as an alternative to antidepressant medication for treatment of depression. Despite the findings that prescription medications provided a faster initial therapeutic response, after the 16-week trial period exercise was on par in reducing depression as prescribed medicine.
What Types of Exercises are best for Fighting Depression?
According to research done by the Journal of Psychiatric Practice aerobic exercises such as brisk walking, cycling or jogging proved to be the best for fighting depression. Participants in the Archives of Internal Medicine study attended three exercise sessions per week for 16 weeks. Each session challenged the patients to reach 70 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rate. This measurement is measured in beats per minute (BPM), which can be counted by checking one’s pulse.
Another study cited on the Harvard Health website cited yoga as an effective exercise for reducing stress and depression. Participants who engaged in two 90-minute yoga classes a week for three months reported improvements in stress, depression, anxiety, well-being, energy and fatigue.
Why Does Exercise Help with Depression?
Exercise is known to release endorphins, chemicals that help to improve mood as well as increase immunity and reduce the perception of pain. Exercise also has additional benefits such as protection against heart disease and cancer, boosting of self-esteem and the lowering of blood pressure. Prescription drug medication on the other hand comes with side effects that may include insomnia, drowsiness, headache, upset stomach, anxiety, loss of libido and weight gain. The other benefit to exercises such as brisk walks or jogging is that they are completely free.
People who experience depression should consider a long-term workout routine that involves the above-mentioned exercises. Exercise should not replace the advice or consultation of a medical professional and those who suffer from depression should still seek qualified help in dealing with their symptoms. In the event exercise does not contribute to minimizing depression, it is still part of a healthy and active lifestyle that everyone should live.