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Aerobic Exercise An Effective Antidepressant

Jim Folk author
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: December 18, 2019

Aerobic Exercise An Effective Antidepressant

The efficacy of exercise in decreasing symptoms of depression has been well established.[1][2][3] Many studies have found exercise to be as effective as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, including major depressive disorder.

New research, a systemic review and meta-analysis, has confirmed that exercise can produce an effective antidepressant effect, and therefore, can be considered an effective antidepressant intervention for depression, including major depression.[4]

If you are struggling with depression or major depression, rather than taking medication, you might find it equally beneficial, or more so, to embark on a regular aerobic exercise routine. As mentioned, regular exercise, which includes aerobic exercise, has repeatedly shown to be an effective antidepressant.

NOTE: Always consult your doctor before starting an exercise routine if you haven't maintained exercise as part of your normal lifestyle routine.

You can read the press release of this recent research below:

Aerobic exercise has antidepressant treatment effects

An analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials indicates that supervised aerobic exercise has large antidepressant treatment effects for patients with major depression. The systematic review and meta-analysis is published in Depression and Anxiety.

Across 11 eligible trials involving 455 adult patients (18-65 years old) with major depression as a primary disorder, supervised aerobic exercise was performed on average for 45 minutes, at moderate intensity, 3 times per week, and for 9.2 weeks. It showed a significantly large overall antidepressant effect compared with antidepressant medication and/or psychological therapies.

Also, aerobic exercise revealed moderate-to-large antidepressant effects among trials with lower risk of bias, as well as large antidepressant effects among trials with short-term interventions (up to 4 weeks) and trials involving preferences for exercise.

Subgroup analyses revealed comparable effects for aerobic exercise across various settings and delivery formats, and in both outpatients and inpatients regardless of symptom severity.

"Collectively, this study has found that supervised aerobic exercise can significantly support major depression treatment in mental health services," said lead author Dr. Ioannis D. Morres, of the University of Thessaly, in Greece.


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1. Craft, Lynette L., and Frank M. Perna. “The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed.” Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc., 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC474733/.

2. Harvard Health Publishing. “Exercise Is an All-Natural Treatment to Fight Depression.” Harvard Health, Apr. 2018, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/exercise-is-an-all-natural-treatment-to-fight-depression.

3. Mayo Clinic Staff. “Depression and Anxiety: Exercise Eases Symptoms.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 27 Sept. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495.

4. Morres, I D, et al. “Aerobic Exercise for Adult Patients with Major Depressive Disorder in Mental Health Services: A Systematic Review and meta-Analysis.” Depression and Anxiety., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 18 Oct. 2018, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30334597.