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The Safe "Drug" That Treats Depression

As you know, I am a major fan of exercise and believe moderate exercise is necessary for optimal health and will do wonderful things for your health. In fact, exercise really needs to be viewed as a drug, but very few clinicians or patients truly understand this concept. Moreover, I believe it is one of the most powerful drugs that we have in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and, according to a new study, mild to moderate depression.

Using exercise ALONE reduced the symptoms of depression by almost 50 PERCENT in a group of adults (ages 20-45) who participated in 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions three to five times a week. Those results, researchers say, are comparable to similar studies in which patients with mild to moderate depression were treated with antidepressants or cognitive therapy.

The key: The intensity of the exercise and continuing it for 30-35 minutes per day, according to one researcher.

Eighty patients were randomly placed into five groups. Two groups participated in moderately intense aerobics, two in lower-intensity aerobics and a fifth group did stretching exercises. Those who participated in moderately intense aerobics, such as exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle experienced a decline in depressive symptoms by an average of 47 percent after 12 weeks. Even those in the low-intensity exercise groups showed at least a 29 percent decline in symptoms.

One of the largest obstacles faced by people who haven't exercised in some time is how to get started. Just the thought of starting an exercise program can be intimidating. Whenever patients ask me what kind of activity is best, my answer is always the same: Walking is a wonderful way to get started. It is very low impact so it is easy on the joints. In fact, most people find it is simple and enjoyable to fit a walk into their day.

EurekAlert January 25, 2005

American Journal of Preventive Medicine Volume 28, Issue 1, January 2005, Pages 1-8 (Free Text Article)

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