Exercise Much More Effective Than Medicines or Counseling for Managing Depression

Happy Woman Exercise Treadmill

A new study by University of South Australia researchers reveals that exercise is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or leading medications in managing depression. The study, which is the most comprehensive to date, encompassed 97 reviews, 1039 trials, and 128,119 participants, and shows that physical activity is highly beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress. The review also revealed that exercise interventions that lasted 12 weeks or less were the most effective in reducing mental health symptoms.

University of South Australia researchers are calling for exercise to be a mainstay approach for managing depression as a new study shows that physical activity is 1.5 times more effective than counseling or the leading medications.

Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the review is the most comprehensive to date, encompassing 97 reviews, 1039 trials, and 128,119 participants. It shows that physical activity is extremely beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress.

Specifically, the review showed that exercise interventions that were 12 weeks or shorter were most effective at reducing mental health symptoms, highlighting the speed at which physical activity can make a change.

The largest benefits were seen among people with depression, pregnant and postpartum women, healthy individuals, and people diagnosed with HIV or kidney disease.

According to the World Health Organization, one in every eight people worldwide (970 million people) live with a mental disorder. Poor mental health costs the world economy approximately $2.5 trillion each year, a cost projected to rise to $6 trillion by 2030. In Australia, an estimated one in five people (aged 16–85) have experienced a mental disorder in the past 12 months.

Lead UniSA researcher, Dr. Ben Singh, says physical activity must be prioritized to better manage the growing cases of mental health conditions.

“Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it has not been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment,” Dr. Singh says.

“Our review shows that physical activity interventions can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in all clinical populations, with some groups showing even greater signs of improvement.

“Higher intensity exercise had greater improvements for depression and anxiety, while longer durations had smaller effects when compared to short and mid-duration bursts.

“We also found that all types of physical activity and exercise were beneficial, including aerobic exercises such as walking, resistance training, Pilates, and yoga.

“Importantly, the research shows that it doesn’t take much for exercise to make a positive change to your mental health.”

Senior researcher, UniSA’s Prof Carol Maher, says the study is the first to evaluate the effects of all types of physical activity on depression, anxiety, and psychological distress in all adult populations.

“Examining these studies as a whole is an effective way to for clinicians to easily understand the body of evidence that supports physical activity in managing mental health disorders.

“We hope this review will underscore the need for physical activity, including structured exercise interventions, as a mainstay approach for managing depression and anxiety.”

Reference: “Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews” by Ben Singh, Timothy Olds, Rachel Curtis, Dorothea Dumuid, Rosa Virgara, Amanda Watson, Kimberley Szeto, Edward O’Connor, Ty Ferguson, Emily Eglitis, Aaron Miatke, Catherine EM Simpson and Carol Maher, 16 February 2023, British Journal of Sports Medicine.
DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-106195

5 Comments on "Exercise Much More Effective Than Medicines or Counseling for Managing Depression"

  1. As someone who has exercised his entire life I can affirm that I am least happy during the periods I take breaks or dont work out.

    I look forward to working out after work as it is my stress relief.

  2. Charles G. Shaver | February 27, 2023 at 11:18 am | Reply

    Certainly good news for millions who aren’t exceptions. However, with no mention of long-term chronic nearly subclinical non-IgE-mediated food (minimally) allergy reactions (e.g., THE PULSE TEST, Arthur F. Coca, 1956; long available free online in PDF format; https://soilandhealth.org/wp-content/uploads/02/0201hyglibcat/020108.coca.pdf) or allergy aggravating toxic food additives (e.g., added ‘cultured-free’ MSG [1980] and soy [late 1960s], minimally) in the article above or the abstract to the original article, one can only assume they were not factored-in. So-called “evidence-based” medicine is so ‘dark-ages.’ In 1981, added MSG preceded a more sedentary lifestyle for me.

    Furthermore, as a now senior adult male who suffered a partially disabling low back injury on-the-job in 1995 and is one of the most likely victims, and least affected people, I know for a fact that even the lack of exercise and/or a normal social life due to my disability do not cause me depression, like I had from early 2009 through late 2010 when inadvertently seriously deficient of calcium due to allergen avoidance practices and flawed serum testing for calcium, and even more seriously deficient of phosphorus in mid-2021, after ignorantly supplementing with calcium carbonate (binds with phosphorous) for most of a decade.

    Now, having also read long ago that added MSG can harm the thyroids in lab mice and adult rats, and exercise causes the thyroid to produce more T4, it now begs this question for me: is it the exercise or just having a goal/purpose to fulfill that made the difference? Anecdotally, in August of 2006 one John Erb of Canada presented a report to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee On Food Additives (http://www.holisticmed.com/msg/TheErbreportonMSGtotheWHO.pdf) on added MSG so there is no reason for the WHO to be unaware of how added MSG can cause depression (minimally) which, to my mind, also disqualifies them from everything Covid19.

  3. Internet Reader | February 28, 2023 at 6:06 pm | Reply

    Charles, your lack of ability to understand the paper and reason effectively disqualifies you from everything science

    • Charles G. Shaver | March 1, 2023 at 7:11 am | Reply

      My apology to all eminently more qualified Internet Readers. I neglected this time to state that Australian (minimally, all foreign) scientists are even more likely to be allergy and allergy related nutritional deficiency ignorant and incompetent than their allergy and allergy related nutritional deficiency ignorant and incompetent American counterparts, because the problems originated in the US, for economic reasons (e.g., ‘it’s more profitable to treat illnesses than to cure them;’ AMA?). For more of my unscientific low-budget (as opposed to the now $Trillions spent on Covid, drugs and genetics) lone-lay-investigator findings on the basis of most chronic disease, including clinical depression, please visit the “About” page of my still non-monetary video channel: https://odysee.com/@charlesgshaver:d?view=about Rest assured, if you still can, I’ll try to do better in future posts.

  4. Charles G. Shaver | March 6, 2023 at 6:16 am | Reply

    Cathleen, I checked out your link and, believing physical causes should be ruled-out, first, I think I’ll write them of my personal discoveries of FDA approved toxic diet related mental and physical health problems. Meanwhile, you can try my links above to see if any of that pertains to you and can help you and/or others you care about. Be safe; be well.

Leave a comment

Email address is optional. If provided, your email will not be published or shared.