Does aerobic exercise have an antidepressant effect?
When you are feeling depressed it can be hard to find the motivation to exercise, yet exercise is known to reduce symptoms of depression and regular physical activity is a great way to uplift your mood. To explore this further, researchers from the University of Thessaly in Greece conducted a meta-analysis to compare the antidepressant effects of aerobic exercise versus no exercise on patients with major depression.
The analysis showed a significantly large overall antidepressant effect compared with antidepressant medication and/or psychological therapies.
For this study, 11 e‐databases and bibliographies of 19 systematic reviews were searched for relevant randomised controlled clinical trials. A random-effects meta‐analysis was used to group post-intervention scores of depression. Heterogeneity and publication bias were also examined. Studies were coded according to the characteristics of participants and interventions, outcomes and comparisons made. Across 11 eligible trials, 455 adult patients with a clinical diagnosis of major depression between the ages of 18 and 65 years were involved. They performed supervised aerobic activity for an average of 45 minutes, at moderate intensity, three times a week for 9.2 weeks.
The analysis showed a significantly large overall antidepressant effect compared with antidepressant medication and/or psychological therapies. A sensitivity analysis revealed that aerobic exercise also had moderate-to-large antidepressant effects among trials with a lower risk of bias, as well as large antidepressant effects among trials with short-term interventions of up to four weeks, and trials involving preferences for exercise. A subgroup analysis showed that aerobic exercise had comparable effects across various settings and delivery methods in both outpatients and inpatients, regardless of the severity of their symptoms.
Despite the small number of trials reviewed, this study shows that aerobic exercise has a large antidepressant effect on patients with major depression. The researchers conclude that supervised aerobic exercise can effectively be used to support major depression treatment in mental health services.
Source: Depression and Anxiety
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