Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Exercise Can Treat Major Depression

Health care providers often believe that alternative treatments for depression are only appropriate for mild depression. For more serious depressions, the patient needs DRUGS. But is that true? As I mentioned in a previous post, there are a number of non-drug treatments for depression. For this posting, I’d like to focus on exercise.

Two recent studies at the Duke University Medical Center tested exercise as a treatment for depression by putting it head-to-head with Zoloft in two randomized clinical trials. The patients were older adults with major depression. In both studies, exercise was as effective Zoloft.

Other studies have found that exercise prevents or treats depression with a wide range of people. The strongest effects are for aerobic exercise, but weight lifting and stretching/yoga are also helpful. If you exercise at a moderate level, exercise is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The guidelines for treating mild-to-moderate and major depression with exercise are listed below.

The recommended exercise regimen for treating major depression requires more effort than the regimen for mild-to-moderate depression. But it is a viable alternative to medications and many women find that it is worth the effort. In the second Duke study, the researchers found that the group that came to the lab to exercise had a lower rate of depression than the group that followed a home-exercise program. The fact that they needed to come to the laboratory probably meant that they also received social support from study staff and fellow participants in addition to benefits of exercise. The participants were also probably more likely to exercise regularly when they knew that they were expected to show up some place. You might find that exercise in a group setting works well for you too.

How much exercise do you need to do? Here are some guidelines summarized from several recent studies.

For mild-to-moderate depression
• Frequency: 2 to 3 times a week
• Intensity: moderate
• Duration: 20 to 30 minutes

For major depression
• Frequency: 3 to 5 times a week
• Intensity: 60% to 85% maximum capacity
• Duration: 45 to 60 minutes

Exercise is another thing you can do for yourself to increase your physical and mental well-being. Get off that couch and just do it! You’ll be happy you did.

1 comment:

  1. Great Blog. From a physical therapist perspective, I agree that exercise can create a positive perspective which will help as well as improve the natural chemicals in the body. Wrote a blog on it as well -


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