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A Recent Study Found that these Easy Activities Can Treat Depression Just as well as Treatment



A Recent Study Found that these Easy Activities Can Treat Depression Just as well as Treatment

It may seem counterintuitive to exercise during a depressive episode. However, a recent study suggests that it might be essential for feeling better.

The study found that when it came to treating depression, many forms of exercise, such as walking, running, yoga, tai chi, aerobic activities, and strength training, demonstrated advantages comparable to those of therapy.

Somewhere between 10% and 25% of people suffer from depression. Lead study author Dr. Michael Noetel, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Queensland in Australia, stated via email that it negatively impacts wellbeing more than debt, divorce, or diabetes.

“Still, only half of those with depression get any treatment.”

More than 14,000 participants in 218 trials on exercise and depression were included in the data analysis.

The whole-body advantages of exercise combined with evidence that suggests it helps with depression make it a potent therapeutic choice, according to Noetel, even though there was a danger of bias in the trials.

According to Dr. Adam Chekroud, assistant professor adjunct of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and cofounder of Spring Health, a mental health services provider, the results are consistent with the findings of numerous other research regarding the positive effects of exercise. This study did not involve him.

In a 2018 study including over 1.2 million Americans, Chekroud found that individuals who exercised had improved mental and general well-being.

According to Chekroud, these studies should reassure people that exercise, when combined with other treatments like counseling and medication, is a useful strategy for treating depression.

“None of these treatments are silver bullets. But, given how debilitating it is to have depression, almost all patients should be offered both exercise and therapy,” Noetel said.

Any Kind of Exercise is Preferable to None At All

The study’s findings indicated that increasing exercise volume and intensity was beneficial, but the information also suggested that you don’t have to begin training like a professional athlete.

“It didn’t matter how much people exercised, in terms of sessions or minutes per week,” Noetel said. “It also didn’t really matter how long the exercise program lasted.”

The largest difference, he said, was the intensity of the activity, although even walking had an effect.

While any activity was better than none at all, Noetel suggested introducing some obstacles.

“We initially thought those with depression might need to ‘ease into it.’ We found it was far better to have a clear program that aimed to push you, at least a little,” he said.

The Challenge of Motivation

It can be difficult for many people to find the motivation to exercise, and adding depression to the mix can make things even more difficult.

In the studies Noetel examined, goal-setting and activity monitoring didn’t appear to be beneficial.

“Instead, I think we have to defer to more established wisdom about what works,” he said, pointing to support and accountability.

Noetel continued, “You can find those by getting a trainer, joining a fitness group, or asking a loved one to go for a walk with you.”

“Taking a few steps toward getting that support makes it more likely that you’ll keep going,” he said.

And in order to stick with an exercise, whether it’s walking or weight training, it needs to be fun.

“Be kind to your future self by making exercise as easy and attractive as possible, like getting yourself an audiobook or a trial at a yoga studio,” Noetel said.

A 2015 study found that the more you love your workout, the more confident you will be to overcome hurdles to your fitness, increasing the likelihood that you will stay to a schedule.

“Then, be kind to yourself if it’s hard — we always forget how easy it is for life to get in the way of exercise, so make a backup plan as if your happiness depended on it … because it does,” Noetel said.


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