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Regular Exercise Effective in Reducing Depression: Recent Meta-analysis


According to new research, several forms of exercise, such as walking, jogging, yoga, and strength training, are moderately beneficial in reducing depressive symptoms. This extensive review, which includes 218 studies with over 14,000 individuals, emphasizes the importance of exercise intensity in addressing this widespread mental health disorder.

Depression, a major contributor to worldwide disability, reduces life satisfaction and exacerbates other health problems. Despite the availability of medication therapies and psychotherapy, many people may not respond to them or have difficulty accessing them. This gap highlights the critical need for more evidence-based treatments.

Exercise, which has numerous benefits for both physical and mental health, has been identified as a potential therapeutic technique. However, present guidelines make varying suggestions about the type and amount of exercise, necessitating a more definite examination.

“As a patient and psychologist, I rarely saw doctors prescribe exercise for depression,” said study author Michael Noetel, a senior lecturer of psychology at The University of Queensland. “Research showed exercise could help, but we didn’t know what to do. Was general encouragement good enough? If not, what should you prescribe? We wanted to look at all the evidence to find out what works best.”

The researchers used a network meta-analysis, a method for comparing numerous therapy interventions at the same time by examining direct comparisons within trials as well as indirect comparisons between trials. To be considered for the analysis, research must be randomized controlled trials focusing on exercise as a treatment for severe depressive illness.

The study’s breadth was broad, drawing on 218 other studies with a total of 495 arms and 14,170 individuals, making it one of the largest analyses of its sort. The researchers collected information about the kind, frequency, intensity, and duration of the exercise interventions, as well as participant demographics including age, gender, baseline severity of depressive symptoms, and any comorbidities.

The researchers discovered that various types of physical activity resulted in moderate reductions in depressive symptoms. Walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training proved to be particularly successful, with each exhibiting moderate decreases in depressive symptoms when compared to active control conditions such as normal care or placebo treatments.

The findings suggest that “exercise is a great treatment for depression,” according to Noetel.

Walking or jogging had the greatest effect size, closely followed by yoga and weight training. Mixed aerobic activities and disciplines, such as tai chi or qigong, also demonstrated benefits, albeit to a lesser extent.

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