The Importance of Exercise in Combating Depression

Medication has made great advances in the treatment of mental health problems, but they do have their limitations. Secondary treatment is critical in the continued improvement of mental well being. A recent study indicates that exercise can be an effective treatment in combating depression and other mood disorders.

Medication has advanced an enormous amount in successfully dealing with the issues, problems and symptoms of mental health and mood disorders. As much as the benefits of these drugs are undisputed it is also accepted that if taken inappropriately or in excess they can have unwanted effects on the patient’s life. For instance, a patient may be prescribed more than one drug and may find themselves taking a whole cocktail of medication; there maybe unexpected side effects from these drugs. Also, through long term use, some drugs used for depression treatment can be addictive

Secondary therapies for depression treatment


In offering depression treatment all medical practitioners, professional counsellors and therapists will work together to create an holistic approach to ensure the treatment deals with the clinical, medical, spiritual, emotional and physical aspects of the illness. However researchers at UT South western Medical Centre in the USA have discovered that physical exercise can be as beneficial as a secondary medication. It was found that as many of 50% of the people on the trial could substitute a secondary medication with a prescribed exercise programme.  In the long term this could lead to a whole re-consideration as to how the treatment of depression is dealt with – especially where the first medication fails to move the patient out of depression.

Dependant on personal characteristics and gender


The studies have shown that 30% of all patients on the trial using exercise as a secondary medication completely recovered from a prescribed exercise regime and 20% more showed significant improvement. It was however made clear that the exercise taken, needs to be prescribed by a medical practitioner, as the intensity of exercise required, will be dependant upon individual characteristics, and even gender. For instance, the intensity of the exercise session was important for women. Among women with a family history of mental illness, moderate exercise was more effective. However, for women whose families did not have a history of the disease, intense exercise was nominal. Men on the whole need a higher intensity of exercise.

As well as confirming the importance of an exercise programme in depression treatment, researchers also felt it clarified that all programmes need to be adapted to the needs of the individual patient.

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