Is exercise actually the most effective anti-depressant?

The answer seems to be yes, according to the latest research

A man cycles past flowers.

A regular exercise routine is dynamite for treating the symptoms of depression.

The number of antidepressants has increased by 35% in the last six years.

On the other hand, it’s encouraging to see so many Americans taking a proactive approach to their mental health. SSRIs appear to address so-called “chemical imbalances” by improving the function of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Yet somewhere in the last 15 years, we may have started giving pills a little too much credit. Here’s some not-so-great information about antidepressants:

  • Only 60% of patients respond positively to antidepressants.
  • Antidepressants can help people improve 9.6 points on a depression scale, but a placebo can help them improve 7.8 points.
  • People with depression don’t actually have less serotonin than people without depression.

That’s not to say SSRIs don’t work, just that some data suggests they’re about 25% more effective than a Skittle. (Not to mention, they can cause long-term side effects like weight gain or sexual dysfunction.)

To close this treatment gap, researchers have begun to explore other treatment options. And somewhat surprisingly, exercise has emerged as a valid option.

In two recent studies (one published here , the other here ) physical activity has been shown to be 1.5 times more effective than therapy or “leading drugs” in treating depression.

The first report included 97 reviews, including 128,119 participants, and concluded that “exercises of 12 weeks or less are most effective in reducing mental health symptoms,” suggesting that patients may be able to get a handle on their anxiety, depression, or depression in some of the in the matter. months. And another report succinctly concluded: “Results show moderate to large effects of exercise on depressive symptoms…[physical activity] should be offered as an evidence-based treatment option.”

Well-being leaders have been beating the drum for years that training is necessary for knowing a certain way -looking in a certain way (conventional, flawed wisdom). But now physical activity also has a legitimate prescriptive slant.

The authors of these studies reached two encouraging conclusions:

  1. Any form of physical activity and exercise was helpful in limiting depressive symptoms, from walking to strength training to yoga.
  2. It doesn’t take that much exercise (or that much time) to make a positive difference in your mental health.

Expect to hear a lot more about “exercise procedures” and “exercise prescriptions” in the near future as doctors, clinical therapists, and personal trainers strive to break down their areas of expertise and offer patients comprehensive plans for improvement. This is not the end of antidepressants. They still do a lot for a lot of people. However, it can be a wake-up call that they’re not a panacea, and new priorities and routines – as simple as a 30-minute walk every day – can be the missing link.

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