People talk about “exercise high,” but research recently published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry states exercise can actually be effective medication for clinical depression. In this particular study, conducted at the UT Southwestern Medical Center, exercise was prescribed as a “second medication” for patients who were not fully responsive to a single antidepressant.
Participants in the study suffered from depression on an average of 7 years and were administered a serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant. After 12 weeks of exercise almost 30% of participants were fully recovered from their depression. An additional 20% experienced significant improvement in their condition. Different patients responded better to different intensity levels of exercise, leading researchers to believe exercise can be prescribed, similar to medication, in varying manners to different populations.
Earlier this year, Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine also published research regarding the relationship between exercise and antidepressant medication. This study found exercise alone to be as effective as a pharmaceutical named sertraline at the 4 month mark of treatment. In the long term, researchers found continuing to exercise could extend those early benefits and could increase success rates of recovery when paired with a prescription antidepressant medication.
Based on these studies it could be stated exercise is as effective as a second medication, with the added benefits of exercise being good for a patient’s overall fitness and health, being less expensive, and having no pharmaceutical side effects.