Link Between Exercise And Depression

Written By Lisa S. Jones / Reviewed By Ray Spotts
Depression is a major health problem worldwide, with an enormous impact on mental and physical health for individuals and high costs for society. While current treatments focus on antidepressant medications and psychotherapy - each of which can help people but have important limitations - only about half of people taking antidepressants will have a clinically significant response and not all people will respond to psychotherapy. Recent research concludes that exercise training and increased physical activity are effective for both prevention and treatment of depression. "The evidence of the use of physical activity and exercise for the management of depression is substantial and growing fast," says lead authors Felipe Barretto Schuch, Ph.D., of Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil, and Brendon Stubbs, Ph.D., of King's College London.

"Despite this substantial evidence, the incorporation of exercise as a key component in treatment is often inconstant and often given a low priority,” the researchers continued. “There is growing recognition that lifestyle behaviors, such as physical activity and exercise partially contribute to the risk of developing depression and can be useful strategies for treating depression, reducing depressive symptoms, improving quality of life, and improving health outcomes." The authors wanted to know if starting an exercise program or increasing physical activity reduces the risk of developing depression or reduces depressive symptoms? For the study – published in Current Sports Medicine Reports - they analyzed pooled data on 49 prospective studies including nearly 267,000 participants. This meta-analysis found physical activity reduces the odds of developing depression by 17 percent, after adjustment for other factors. The protective effect was significant in all countries and across patient subgroups.

Physical Activity As Treatment

Physical activity is also an effective treatment for depression. Some studies have shown that a single exercise session can reduce symptoms in patients with major depressive disorder. The authors performed another meta-analysis of 25 randomized trials in which nearly 1,500 people with depression were assigned to exercise training or comparison groups. The results suggested a "very large and significant antidepressant effect" of exercise. But exercise may not be equally effective for all patients. A wide range of biological, clinical, psychological, and social factors affect the response to exercise therapy for depression, which may be helpful in matching "the right patient for the right treatment."

Research is ongoing to identify how the antidepressant response to exercise works. Potential mechanisms involving exercise-induced changes on inflammation, oxidative stress, and neuronal regeneration - particularly in the hippocampus -  have been proposed. Research investigating why and how exercise reduces symptoms is in its early stages, and the findings are not conclusive. In any group of patients, starting and sustaining an exercise program can be challenging.

Some reports have suggested that the key to successful exercise therapy for depression is "autonomous motivation." Physical activity should be as enjoyable as possible, leading people to exercise for its own sake. Supervision by health and fitness professionals or social support from friends and family may also increase the chances of success. Even though the evidence strongly supports the benefits of exercise, it still isn't routinely included in clinical recommendations for prevention and treatment of depression. Addressing this issue and the current reliance on the two-pronged approach of talking therapies and medication is important in going forward.

A New Tool For Understanding Depression

Researchers from the University of Adelaide have developed a new tool that would assist clinicians in assessing people who have major depression disorders (MDD). The THINC-integrated digital software tool evaluates the cognitive functions of people who are severely depressed. The tool was recently used to check the cognitive functions of 127 sufferers of MDD. The research was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

People who suffer from major depressive disorder experience cognitive dysfunctions frequently which makes thinking clearly a serious problem alongside their ability to concentrate and remember things, according to Dr. Matthew Knight, Research Officer from the Discipline of Psychiatry at University of Adelaide. "Cognitive difficulties associated with MDD can lead to people having problems coping with daily life,” Knight says. “This can adversely affect their work life, their personal relationships, and reduce their quality of life in general. THINC-it assists clinicians in tailoring plans to treat patients' cognitive deficits and will enhance the precision of treatment for people suffering from severe depression."

Identifying Cognitive Deficits

With the THINC-it platforms, clinicians have the ability to download reports which can be used to carry out four objective tests on their patients – one which their patients measure their own cognitive difficulties experienced in their daily life. With a self-instructed software, THINC-it can be completed within 15 minutes in which a report of the patient’s cognitive function is automatically generated with areas of cognitive deficits identified. "Existing cognitive screening tools are more time consuming and costly than THINC-it and place significant administrative burden on the psychiatrist or interviewer," added Professor Bernard Baune, Head of Psychiatry at the University of Adelaide. "It is very important to identify cognitive deficits in patients with major depressive disorders so that these patients can receive treatments specifically designed to address their cognitive and functional symptoms. Assessing the cognitive impairment of people suffering from MDD is particularly important for individuals whose occupational functioning is affected. Results from this research show that THINC-it swiftly provides an accurate measure of patients' cognitive difficulties and the associated functional impairments."

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About The Author

Lisa S. Jones is a certified nurse, nutritionist, fitness coach and health expert. Her training credentials include a B.Sc. in Nursing from California State University in 2013 and Youth Nutrition Specialist Certification from the American Fitness Professionals and Associates in 2015. In 2017, she also received Holistic Nutrition Certification from the American Fitness Professionals and Associates.

Reviewed By:

Founder Ray Spotts has a passion for all things natural and has made a life study of nature as it relates to health and well-being. Ray became a forerunner bringing products to market that are extraordinarily effective and free from potentially harmful chemicals and additives. For this reason Ray formed Trusted Health Products, a company you can trust for clean, effective, and healthy products. Ray is an organic gardener, likes fishing, hiking, and teaching and mentoring people to start new businesses. You can get his book for free, “How To Succeed In Business Based On God’s Word,” at www.rayspotts.com.


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