Is there evidence to support the idea that exercise can have an effect on depression? And if so, how much exercise? A number of research studies have been done to answer those questions and others.
One study assigned participants, 202 depressed adults at least 40 years old, to one of four groups.
After 16 weeks, researchers rescreened participants for depression and found 45 percent of the people in the supervised exercise group no longer met the criteria for major depression. In the other groups, 40 percent of home exercisers, 47 percent of medicine takers and 31 percent of placebo pill takers were no longer depressed.
That’s right, the supervised exercisers did as well as the people who took an antidepressant.
Still, a number of scientists have combined results from the many small studies to see if an overall effect can be described. These review papers generally find a small to moderate effect of exercise in the research studies. How does that evidence translate to the real world?
“Any treatment for depression works for some people, but not for everybody,” [psychologist James] Blumenthal says. That’s true for medication, talk therapy and exercise alike.
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