Depression is a widespread and often chronic condition. Experts estimate that 15-20% of people suffer from clinical depression at some point in their lives.
According to the World Health Organisation it is the 4th leading contributor to the global burden of disease and expected to reach the 2nd position by 2020.
Common treatment options are medication and psychotherapy.
But this does not come cheap and medication often has undesirable side-effects such as weight gain. The good news is that there is also another effective treatment possibility.
A recent review of the best published research shows that exercise can be successfully used in the treatment of depression.
The authors reviewed medical research published since Jan 2006 and picked the best 58 studies which examined the effects of exercise on depression. These studies cumulatively involved about 3000 participants.
In people with clinical depression it was proven that those who followed an exercise program had significantly lower depression scores than those who received no treatment.
And exercise treatment was at least as effective as antidepressant medication and psychotherapy!
In non-clinically depressed participants, those receiving an exercise intervention had significantly lower depression scores than a non-treatment control group.
The effect of exercise in bipolar disorder has not been widely studied but 2 studies report that a walking program had significant beneficial effects on coping strategies to stressful events and on symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression.
But how much and what type of exercise will be needed to make a difference?
In the next article we’ll look at what research revealed about this.
Anika Meyer (Physiotherapist)