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29.12.2022


Is the antidepressant effect of physical exercise superior to that of pharmacological antidepressants?

A reasonable dose of exercise - at least for non-athletes - is just as effective against depression in the short term as a pharmacological antidepressant. At least, according to a trial that appeared in Psychosomatic Medicine in 2000. According to this trial, in the longer term, exercise actually works better...


Is the antidepressant effect of physical exercise superior to that of pharmacological antidepressants?


Study
Michael Babyak, a psychiatrist at Duke University Medical Center in the US, divided 156 over-50s with major depression into 3 groups.

For 4 months, Babyak treated the subjects in one group with 50-200 milligrams of sertraline per day.

The subjects in the second group exercised for an hour 3 times a week. This meant that after a 10-minute warm-up, the subjects went jogging or cycling for 30 minutes at 70-85 percent of their maximum heart rate. The subjects concluded the session with a 5-minute cool-down.

The subjects in the third group took sertraline and exercised.


Is the antidepressant effect of physical exercise superior to that of pharmacological antidepressants?


Results
After 4 months, 60-79 percent of the subjects in all three groups were out of depression. At this point, the three tested treatments seemed to be equally effective.

However, when Babyak visited as many of his test subjects as possible after 6 months, he saw that the group that had only exercised performed significantly better than the other groups.


Is the antidepressant effect of physical exercise superior to that of pharmacological antidepressants?


Is the antidepressant effect of physical exercise superior to that of pharmacological antidepressants?


Conclusion
"The present findings suggest that a modest exercise program (eg, three times per week with 30 minutes at 70% of maximum heart rate reserve each time) is an effective, robust treatment for patients with major depression who are positively inclined to participate in it and that clinical benefits are particularly likely to endure among patients who adopt exercise as a regular, ongoing life activity", Babyak wrote.

Source:
Psychosom Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;62(5):633-8.

More:
Fitness helps children & adolescents beat depression 28.12.2022
Why moderate continuous activity is a better antidepressant than HIT 03.08.2022
Depression disappears faster due to less than an hour of strength training or cardio per week 16.11.2019
Intensive weight training helps fight depression 05.06.2013

Archives:
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