Exercise is an Evidence-Based Treatment for Depression

We know a few things about exercise and depression. Many think that exercise is an effective anti-depressant. Others know that when they get injured or can’t exercise, they get depressed. The effects of exercise on depression have been a source of contentious debate.

A recent study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research (2016) conducted a meta-analysis on the issue of exercise as a treatment for depression. The researchers intended to adjust for publication bias in studies conducted between 2013 and 2015. Their meta-analysis (Schuch et al., 2016) found large antidepressant effects of exercise on depression when compared to non-active control conditions. The antidepressant effect of exercise was higher for studies that included participants diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder.

More importantly, their adjusted analyses demonstrated that publication bias generally resulted in an underestimation of the positive effects of exercise. One of the interesting findings pertinent to my work with patients and athletes is that the largest effect sizes were found for outpatients, in patients without other clinical issues and when supervised by qualified exercise professionals.

Many healthcare professionals recommend exercise as a non-medication-based intervention for depression. A common resistance to exercise as medicine is that a depressed mindset doesn’t allow for the new behavior to take hold. Successful running groups such as Up and Running include trainers and psychologists in the running group.

Amplifying Performance Consulting is partnering with Spin at Donohoe Training @the Barn in Carlisle, MA to conduct a 45-minute spin class followed by a 45-minute process group for individuals addressing depression or anxiety. “Spin Mind Body” will be led by a certified spin instructor trained to inspire a positive mindset while safely modifying a class for all levels of physical fitness. A licensed mental health professional will participate in the spin class and conduct the group to follow. For more information, please contact Sharon at sharon@amplifyingperformance.com.

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