Exercise works as well as drugs to combat depression

June 12, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

A good friend of mine once told me to “lead with the body” when you are struggling with anxiety or depression.  Talking things out has it’s limits, he said, as do drugs.  It was my friend’s belief that exercising the body will often allow the mind to clear itself up.  It appears that my friend’s instincts were correct:

In a Duke University research study, published in the October 25, 1999 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, exercise was found to be almost as effective as medication in reducing symptoms of depression.

Though medication can be a life saver for some and no one wants to suggest otherwise, these studies open the door for other or additional strategies. “One of the conclusions we can draw from this,” according to psychologist and study leader Dr. James Blumenthal, “is that exercise may be just as effective as medication and may be a better alternative for certain patients. 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. 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.”

This is good news in these days of skyrocketing health care costs.   Walking around the block is a lot cheaper than most drugs, with fewer side-effects (unless you live in a dangerous neighborhood).


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Category: Health, Medicine, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (2)

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  1. comment says:

    "we don’t know why exercise confers such a benefit"

    Not so.

    It is the endorphins.

    often called "the positive addiction."

  2. Tom says:

    Discussions of depression often recommend exercise, but few caution that if one is not careful, over-exercise can exacerbate the problem. This happened to me about 2 years ago… being so determined to overcome depression I undertook frequent vigorous exercise, only realising later that I was making the problem far worse.

    The science behind this is very well explained in this ground-breaking essay:
    (Part 1 here: http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2005/5/9/83936/5848

    I’m currently blogging about my own efforts to overcome depression using a radical method involving nutrition and digestive therapy. Follow my progress at http://www.holstep.com/.

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