Thursday, 24 January 2008

Exercise those blues away!

We’ve all heard of the ‘runner’s high’ or endorphins released during exercise. I definitely feel better after a run (getting out is sometimes hard at 6:15am in the winter though!). But for the first time, a study done at Duke University compared exercise to an antidepressant in a group of 202 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
And guess what?
Exercise was as effective as the drug in alleviating the symptoms of depression!
The 202 people were assigned to 4 groups: one took Zoloft (an antidepressant), another did group exercise, the third did exercise at home and one took a placebo.
Sixteen weeks later, 47% of the group that took the antidepressant, 45% of the supervised exercise group, and 40% of those that exercised at home no longer met the criteria for major depression! The differences between these 3 groups were not statistically significant. However, all groups improved a statistically significant amount over the placebo group (only 31% of which no longer met the criteria for depression at the end of the study).
This study provides powerful evidence that exercise may be a viable alternative to antidepressant medication in the treatment of major depressive disorder. But even if you’re not depressed but just feel worn out and need more energy (and who doesn’t!), studies have shown that physical activity will benefit you too!

Not only does physical activity improve mental health, it improves your cardiovascular fitness, your cholesterol and blood pressure, helps regulate your blood sugars, helps in weight loss, improves bone density, increases your self esteem, gives you more energy, makes you more aware of your body etc etc. Easy to see why they say that if these benefits could be put into a pill form, it would be the most prescribed pill out there! Even I'd take it!

On that note… good luck to James on his marathon on Sunday in Miami!! He leaves tomorrow and this is his first full marathon (but he’s run 2 halfs). He’s been training super hard so he’ll do super well!! After all that exercise, you’ll be in great mental health!!


Jme said...

THanks for the "gluck"! Do you have a link to the study that came out? I wonder what the difference in benefits b/w cardio or weights or a combo...

Sybil Hebert, RD said...

Hey Jme,
Here's a link to he abstract-

Can't access the full article so I don't know what specific exercise was prescribed in this case.
In a previous study done by Blumenthal, that also demonstrated that physical activity was as effective as meds in treating major depression (but in a population >50 yrs old), participants did aerobic activity: either 30 minutes riding a stationary bicycle or walking or jogging three times a week.

Some studies have shown that smaller amounts of activity (as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time) have been shown to improve mood in the short term.

More research has to be done to determine the benefits of different types of activities (cardio vs weights or a combo) on mental health...

Of course we know that for overall health, we should be doing a combo of both!!