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Depressed? Try working out
Last Updated Sun, 06 Feb 2005 16:05:03 EST
CBC News

HALIFAX - Exercise can be as effective as medication for treating mild to moderate depression, U.S. research suggests.

Patients who exercise aerobically for at least 30 minutes three to five times a week are just as likely to get better as those who take anti-depressants or talk regularly with a therapist, according to the study from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre.

Kate Hayes, a clinical psychologist in Toronto, occasionally urges exercise therapy for her patients and says it's underprescribed.

"It's very easy to give a pill," said Hayes, who has written two books about the mental health benefits of exercise.

"The research is really pretty consistent that exercise can be equally as effective with medication, can be equally as effective with psychotherapy. There are times when one or another of those are combined."

For many of her patients, she said, exercise offers the same benefits as drugs, without the risk of side-effects or the cost.

The Texas study, published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, looked at 80 men and women aged 20 to 45 years who had been diagnosed with mild to moderate depression.

The researchers initially tested them using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, then asked them to do one of four exercise programs that varied in total energy expenditure and frequency.

The patients worked out on treadmills or stationary bicycles for three or five days a week.

The study, which was conducted between 1998 and 2001, also included a control group that did three days a week of stretching exercises rather than aerobic activity.

When researchers tested the patients again after 12 weeks, they found the depression had faded by an average of 42 per cent in people who did 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least three times a week.

That's similar to other studies that showed remission rates of 36 per cent for cognitive behavioral therapy and 42 per cent for antidepressant medication.

David Baxter PhD

Late Founder
There's no doubt that physical exercise is helpful in combatting depression, but of course the problem is for people who are moderately depressed it's not a solution, at least not initially -- really depressed individuals have all they can do to get out of bed let alone thinking of going for a run or to the gym...
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