Symptoms Of Depression Improved With Exercise

The results from many studies support the idea that exercise improves mood in people with mild to moderate depression.

By reviewing the results from 51 different  studies on exercise for depression, it was revealed that a small but significant increase in self esteem was associated with the reduction of symptoms of depression. As more research is being carried out on exercise for depression, researchers are theorizing that exercise could possibly elevate serotonin levels enough to alleviate mild to moderate depression.

Exercise for Depression study 1
In one study 156 people suffering from depression were split up into 3 groups. One group participated in aerobic exercises, the second group were given the antidepressant sertraline (Zoloft), and the third group a combination of the two. After 16 weeks, depression had been reduced in all three groups. About 60%-70% of the people in all 3 of the groups couldn’t be considered to have major depression. The study results suggest that exercise could be an alternative to antidepressants.

Exercise for Depression study 2
Another study that followed the exact same people in the study above for yet another 6 months, observed that the people who carried on exercising after completing the first study were significantly less likely to have their depression come back compared to the other participants. Just 8% of people in the exercise group had their depression come back, while 38% of the “Zoloft” group and 31% of the “exercise and Zoloft” group had their depression come back.

Exercise for Depression study 3
A study found that walking fast for about 35 minutes daily 5 times per week or 60 minutes daily 3 times per week significantly influenced symptoms of mild to moderate depression. Walking fast for just 15 minutes daily 5 times per week or performing stretching exercises 3 times per week didn’t influence symptoms of depression as much.

Exercise for Depression study 4
Another exercise for depression study found that participating in a 30 minute aerobic exercise session 3 to 5 times a week reduced mild to moderate depression symptoms almost 50% in adults aged 20 to 45. The results of the study are the same as results from studies where people having mild to moderate depression had been given antidepressants or treated with cognitive behavioral therapy.

The study found that those people who took part in aerobics sessions of moderate intensity, like exercising on a stationary bicycle or treadmill, regardless if it was for 3 or 5 days each week, had a decline in symptoms of depression after 12 weeks by an average of 47 %.

People that took part in an exercise group of low intensity had a 30 % reduction in symptoms of depression, while that took part in a stretching flexibility exercise group had an average of 29% reduction in symptoms of depression.

Mental Benefits of Exercise Infographic

Infographic by: Treadmill Reviews
References: PMID: 15626549, PMCID: PMC474733