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Study: Exercise Improves Most Forms of Depression Treatment

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March 21, 2024High-intensity exercise treats depression as effectively as do cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and medication, according to a new study that found combining SSRIs, a type of antidepressant, with exercise improved depressive symptoms more than medication alone.1The systematic review and meta-analysis led by a research team from the University of Queensland, Australia, found that the more intense the physical activity, the more effective it was at managing depression.

More specifically, vigorous exercises (e.g., running, interval training, strength training, mixed aerobic exercise) reduced depression symptoms in participants more than light physical activity (e.g., walking and hatha yoga), although the latter did provide some benefit.These findings emerged from examinations of 218 randomized controlled trials, including 14,170 participants diagnosed with depression, to determine the effectiveness of exercise, psychotherapy, and antidepressants in treating depression.When the researchers narrowed their analysis by demographics, they discovered that strength training and cycling positively impacted more women than men, and yoga or qigong provided more benefits to men than women.

Yoga appeared more effective among older adults, and younger adults received better results from strength training. The duration and frequency of exercise did not affect the results.The study also suggested that men appeared to benefit more than women from combining yoga, Tai Chi, or aerobic exercise with psychotherapy.

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