Monday, May 21, 2007

Physical Activity In Lieu of Drug Treatments for Depression

In the past decade, researchers have compiled an extensive set of data that shows exercise may combat mild to moderate depression at least as well as any other treatment.

A recent study at Duke University used a four-month program of aerobic exercise in people diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. The subjects worked out for 30 minutes three times a week in groups. Their response was compared with that of similarly depressed patients who received either standard therapy with Zoloft or drug and exercise combined.

Patients in all three groups experienced equally significant reductions in depression symptoms. Combining two effective treatments, drug and exercise, added no benefit. Notably however, six months after treatment ended, fewer patients in the exercise group had relapsed into depression.

Animal studies show that exercise alters neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of emotion, especially norepinephrine - the changes are similar to those produced by antidepressants. It also appears to stimulate the vagus nerve, increasingly recognized as an important pathway of depression.

Exercise changes people's perception of themselves, providing a sense of accomplishment and positive self-esteem, thus reducing negative thoughts. And exercise keeps on working - people who continue to exercise have continuing reductions in the symptoms of depression.


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