Exercise benefits depression and can prevent its development, according to a major review by the Federal University of Santa Maria in Brazil and King’s College London. Highlights of the study include:
– Physical activity can confer protection from the development of depression in children and adults. These effects are observed across all continents.
– A robust body of evidence from randomised controlled trials demonstrates that exercise is effective in treating depression.
– The type of exercise should fit personal preferences, and be enjoyable or challenging eg training to achieve a 5km run. It would be a mistake to prescribe say, gym sessions for everyone.
– Encouraging patients to exercise with friends or family may increase the chances of treatment success, and the subsequent adoption and maintenance of exercise.
– The dropout rate in exercise trials for people with depression is about 18%. By comparison, that from psychotherapy is about 19% while that from SSRI medication (eg prozac, citalopram) is about 26%.
– Just like other interventions, exercise may not work equally for all.
– Evidence of the effectiveness of exercise is substantial and growing fast. Despite this, only some guidelines have included physical activity and exercise among recommended strategies for depression.
(The Role of Exercise in Preventing and Treating Depression. Current Sports Medicine Reports, August 2019.)