A study by researchers at the University of Texas has found that adults suffering mild to moderate depression reduced their depressive symptoms by almost 50 percent by participating in 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions several times a week.
The results, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, are comparable to results from studies in which patients with mild to moderate depression were treated with antidepressants or cognitive therapy, said Madhukar Trivedi, director of UT Southwestern's mood disorders research program. "The effect you find using aerobic exercise alone in treating clinical depression is similar to what you find with antidepressant medications," said study author Trivedi. "The key is the intensity of the exercise and continuing it for 30 to 35 minutes per day. It's not for the faint of heart."
Individuals who participated in moderately intense aerobics, such as exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle - whether it was for three or five days per week - experienced a decline in depressive symptoms by an average of 47 percent after 12 weeks.
"Numerous effective treatments for depression are available, yet many people don't seek treatment because of the negative social stigma still associated with the disease," Trivedi said. "Exercise may offer a viable treatment alternative, particularly as it can be recommended for most individuals."