The Link Between
Exercise And Depression Cure


The Link Between Exercise And Depression Cure

Wondering about the link between exercise and depression treatment?

Evidence on the benefits of exercise to mental health is overwhelming.

In 1998, Edzard Ernst and associates at the University of Exeter found in over a thousand trials involving exercise and depression, that exercise helped kept away negativity, fear, worry, anger and tension. [1]

Regular engagement in exercise also brought about improved self-image, higher mental performance and creativity, greater self-confidence, less neuroticism, better sleep, as well as increased composure during stress, other than less depression. [1]

Exercise and depression

Exercise does not just help maintain good mental health. It is also promising as a depression treatment.

Exercise helps in improving moods

In a review published in the Sports Medicine journal, seven out of eight studies reviewed found that various forms of exercise (e.g. aerobic exercise, weight training, dancing and racquetball) produced significantly more mood improvements in depressed subjects as compared to no exercise [2].

In other studies, increased participation in exercise, sports and physical activities are found to be strongly associated with decreased symptoms of anxiety and depression [3].

The mood-elevating effects of exercise probably explain why a personal trainer once said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone leave the gym in a worse mood than when they arrived”. [4]

Exercise can be as effective as antidepressant drugs

However, there is more to the link between exercise and depression cure than improving moods.

Studies show that exercise can be as effective as antidepressant drugs and psychotherapy when treating depression [3, 5]. In fact, naturopath Michael Murray considers that “regular exercise may be the most powerful natural antidepressant available”. [1]

A trial comparing the effects of an exercise program with the effects of an antidepressant drug in people over 50 years old found that the two types of treatment were equally effective after 16 weeks [5].

A randomized study by Dr Jim Blumenthal from the Duke University in the 1990s involving 156 depressed patients found that exercise (a half-hour brisk walk 3 times a week) was more effective than Zoloft (a common antidepressant drug). [4]

While both the exercise and depression drug were equally effective in the first few months, by the tenth month, those in the exercise group were more likely to remain depression-free as compared to those in the drug group [4].

A study by psychologists Jeffrey Fremont and Linda Craighead involving 54 mildly to moderately depressed sedentary females found that aerobic exercise (supervised walk, jog or run program) was as effective as cognitive therapy (the gold standard psychotherapy) when dealing with depression. Most of the subjects in the exercise group improved after merely 4 weeks on the program, and by 10 weeks, about 20% of the subjects were nearly or completely free of depression. [1]

The link between exercise and depression cure

Exercise and endorphins

Some seek to explain the link between exercise and depression cure effects through the production of body endorphins, which are directly correlated with good mood, during exercise [3].

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