Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression

Date:
October 27, 1999
Source:
Duke University
Summary:
A brisk 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of anti-depressant medications, according to the results of a Duke University Medical Center study.

DURHAM, N.C. - A brisk 30-minute walk or jog around the track three times a week may be just as effective in relieving the symptoms of major depression as the standard treatment of anti-depressant medications, according to the results of a Duke University Medical Center study.

The researchers studied 156 elderly patients diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD) and assigned them to three groups: exercise, medication, or a combination of medication and exercise. To the surprise of the researchers, after 16 weeks all three groups showed statistically significant and similar improvement in measurements of depression.

"One of the conclusions we can draw from this is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients," said the lead researcher, Duke psychologist James Blumenthal, who published the results of his team's study in the Oct. 25 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine. The research is supported by a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health.

"While we don't know why exercise confers such a benefit, this study shows that exercise should be considered as a credible form of treatment for these patients," Blumenthal said in an interview. "Almost one-third of depressed patients in general do not respond to medications, and for others, the medications can cause unwanted side effects. Exercise should be considered a viable option."

While the researchers studied middle-aged and elderly people, Blumenthal said the results probably hold true for the general population. "Because the elderly tend to have additional medical problems that might make regular exercise difficult, this is the most difficult group to test the exercise hypothesis."

Symptoms of MDD, as defined by the psychiatric reference book Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV), include depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure combined with at least four of the following: sleep disturbances, weight loss, changes in appetite, psychomotor agitation, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, impaired cognition or concentration and recurrent thoughts of death.

Based on the DSM-IV definition of depression, 60.4 percent of the patients who only exercised were no longer depressed after 16 weeks, compared with 65.5 percent for the medication group and 68.8 percent of the combination group. When a second commonly used measure of depression, the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, was added, 47.2 percent of exercise group were no longer considered depressed, compared to 56 percent of medication group and 47 percent of combination.

In both cases, according to Blumenthal, the differences between the groups were not statistically significant.

Researchers did note that patients who took the anti-depressants saw their symptoms relieved sooner, but by 16 weeks the group differences had disappeared.

Blumenthal said it was possible that the structured and supportive atmosphere of the exercise program also could have an effect in improving the symptoms of the exercise group, but he doesn't attribute the majority of the benefit to social support. Studies have shown that improved levels of physical fitness are related to improved symptoms of depression, he said. Nevertheless, early next year, Blumenthal plans to begin a new study to gauge the effect of exercising in a less-supportive atmosphere, and he also plans to include a placebo group.

Blumenthal suggested that exercise may be beneficial because patients are actually taking an active role in trying to get better.

"Simply taking a pill is very passive," he said. "Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment. They felt more self-confident and had better self-esteem because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise.

"These findings could change the way some depressed patients are treated, especially those who are not interested in taking anti-depressants," Blumenthal said. "While these medications have been proven to be effective, many people want to avoid the side effects or are looking for a more 'natural' way of feeling better."

The anti-depressant used in the study was sertraline (trade name Zoloft), which is a member of a class of commonly used anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

Blumenthal cautions that the study did not include patients who were acutely suicidal or had what is termed psychotic depression. Also, because patients were recruited by advertisements, these patients were motivated to get better and interested in exercise.

The research team included, from Duke, Michael Babyak, Kathleen Moore, Steve Herman, Parinda Khatri, Dr. Robert Waugh, Melissa Napolitano, Dr. Leslie Forman, Dr. Murali Doraiswamy and Dr. Ranga Krishnan. Others included Edward Craighead, University of Colorado at Boulder, and Mark Applebaum, University of California at San Diego.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Duke University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Duke University. "Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 October 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991027071931.htm>.
Duke University. (1999, October 27). Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991027071931.htm
Duke University. "Exercise May Be Just As Effective As Medication For Treating Major Depression." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/10/991027071931.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

Doctors Fear They're Losing Battle Against Ebola

AP (Sep. 2, 2014) As a third American missionary is confirmed to have contracted Ebola in Liberia, doctors on the ground in West Africa fear they're losing the battle against the outbreak. (Sept. 2) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

Tech Giants Bet on 3D Headsets for Gaming, Healthcare

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) When Facebook acquired the virtual reality hardware developer Oculus VR in March for $2 billion, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hailed the firm's technology as "a new communication platform." Duration: 02:24 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins