Exercise An Effective Substitute As 2nd Medication For Depressed People

Exercise could be as beneficial as a 2nd medication for as much as 50% of depressed people whose condition hasn’t been cured by just one antidepressant medication.

Researchers discovered that both moderate as well as intense degrees of daily exercise can work as well as giving a 2nd antidepressant drug, which is sometimes made use of when initial medications do not ease depression. The kind of exercise required depends on various factors, such as gender.

These conclusions are the result of a 4-year study, 1 of the 1st controlled investigations to indicate that incorporating a regular exercise regimen together with targeted medications can in fact relieve major depressive disorder symptoms completely.

According to the researchers, many depressed people that start on an antidepressant medication feel much better once they begin treatment, however they still do not feel entirely better or as well as they did before they has become depressed. This research demonstrates that exercise could be as effective as including another medication. A lot of people would prefer to use exercise than include another drug, especially as exercise has a proven positive impact on an individual’s wellbeing and overall health.

Depressed people who ranged from 18 to 70 in age and who hadn’t remitted with treatment by using a SSRI antidepressant medication were split into 2 groups. Each group was given a different degree of exercise intensity for 12 weeks.

Individuals exercised either on cycle ergometers or treadmills or both, and kept an online diary of frequency as well as length of sessions, and also wore a heart-rate monitor when they were exercising at home. They also met with a psychiatrist throughout the research.

At the conclusion of the study, almost 30% of depressed people in each group had full remission from their depression, and an additional 20% showed a significant improvement, determined by standard psychiatric measurements. The study found that moderate exercise was more beneficial for women having a family history of depression, while intense exercise was more beneficial for women whose families didn’t have a history of depression. For men, intense exercise was more beneficial regardless of other characteristics.

Infographic by MiramontLifestyle
Reference for: Exercise An Effective Substitute For 2nd Medication For Depressed People


The results from many studies support the idea that exercise improves mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

By reviewing the results from 51 different studies on exercise for depression, it was revealed that a small but significant increase in self esteem was associated with the reduction of symptoms of depression. As more research is being carried out on exercise for depression, researchers are theorizing that exercise could possibly elevate serotonin levels enough to alleviate mild to moderate depression.

Exercise for Depression study 1
In one study 156 people suffering from depression were split up into 3 groups. One group participated in aerobic exercises, the second group were given the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), and the third group a combination of the two. After 16 weeks, depression had been reduced in all three groups. About 60%-70% of the people in all 3 of the groups couldn’t be considered to have major depression. The study results suggest that exercise could be an alternative to antidepressants.

Exercise for Depression study 2
Another study that followed the exact same people in the study above for yet another 6 months, observed that the people who carried on exercising after completing the first study were significantly less likely to have their depression come back compared to the other participants. Just 8% of people in the exercise group had their depression come back, while 38% of the “Zoloft” group and 31% of the “exercise and Zoloft” group had their depression come back.

Exercise for Depression study 3
A study found that walking fast for about 35 minutes daily 5 times per week or 60 minutes daily 3 times per week significantly influenced symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Walking fast for just 15 minutes daily 5 times per week or performing stretching exercises 3 times per week didn’t influence symptoms of depression as much.

Exercise for Depression study 4
Another exercise for depression study found that participating in a 30 minute aerobic exercise session 3 to 5 times a week reduced mild to moderate depression symptoms almost 50% in adults aged 20 to 45. The results of the study are the same as results from studies where people having mild to moderate depression had been given antidepressants or treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

The study found that those people who took part in aerobics sessions of moderate intensity, like exercising on a stationary bicycle or treadmill, regardless if it was for 3 or 5 days each week, had a decline in symptoms of depression after 12 weeks by an average of 47 %.

People that took part in an exercise group of low intensity had a 30 % reduction in symptoms of depression, while that took part in a stretching flexibility exercise group had an average of 29% reduction in symptoms of depression.

Mental Benefits of Exercise Infographic

Mental Benefits of Exercise Infographic

Infographic by: Treadmill Reviews
References: PMID: 15626549, PMCID: PMC474733

Want to use our images on your site? Right click on image for embed code

From our partners:

Simply copy and paste the code below to embed the image on your page