Exercise as Medicine for Depression

Today’s Boston Globe cites several studies demonstrating the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of depression and other mental health problems. Dr. James A. Blumenthal–a professor of medical psychology at Duke University and the principal investigator of several of these studies–is quoted in the Globe as saying, “There is growing evidence that exercise may be comparable to other established treatments such as antidepressant medications.” He also found that depressed patients who were helped by exercise were less likely to relapse after 10 months than those helped by antidepressants, according to the article. In consultation with your doctor, experts cited in the Globe suggest 20-40 minutes of exercise, including weightlifting and aerobics, 3 times a week, at a level that “makes you break a sweat,” for treatment of depression, anxiety, ADHD, addiction, stress, and aggression.

We have already seen evidence that exercise can help prevent chronic disease and hospitals around the country now have “boot camp” programs for chronic back pain. Now, there is evidence that exercise is also “medicine for the brain,” in the words of Cambridge psychiatrist and author, John Ratey, MD. So let’s get out and move our bodies! Here is the link to the article.


Filed under depression, Exercise, Healing, mental health

5 responses to “Exercise as Medicine for Depression

  1. naturalgal

    I have always heard this. But you know for me, exercise never helped with anxiety. It sometimes got me even more revved up. I do believe excerice is good over all. But it never stopped or relieved my symptoms.


  2. I think Duane Sherry’s perspective on a multidisciplinary approach to mental health is terrific: He says, “I think it would be a good thing if doctors encouraged people to take a multi-dimensional approach – one that involves the mind/body/spirit.” More on his excellent blog


  3. Thanks for calling attention to this article. Once a depressive episode takes hold, I can’t end it with exercise. But this year, I have finally decided to start and continue an exercise program during my months of wellness to determine if I can stave off depression through exercise. There have also been many studies confirming the value of yoga as an “antidepressant.”


  4. Wonderful! I will be cheering you on.


  5. duanesherry

    Susan (Bipolar Wellness Writer),

    Have your read ‘Depression-Free Naturally’ by Joan Matthews Larson?

    It has some very good information on supplements for depression.

    Also, I have come to believe that those of who are very senstitive to life events and feel things deeply are also very senstitive to various foods and chemicals in our environment – in the form of ‘cerbral allergies’.

    Also, our brains get zapped of nutrients, and we need to supplement to get the ones we need. There may also be a bit of a genetic predisposition – not in the biological model presented to us by medical science, but more in the sense of an inability to process specific amino acids and nutrients in the brain.

    It’s a good book.



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