Researchers say aerobic exercise is just as good at beating mild to moderate depression as standard antidepressant medications. In a study comparing five different exercise programs for people with mild to moderate depression, there was a 50-percent reduction in depressive symptoms among those taking part in aerobic exercises like walking on a treadmill three to five times a week.
The study involved 80 people with mild to moderate depression who were randomly assigned to take part in an aerobic exercise program either three or five days a week, a lower-intensity exercise program three or five days a week, or a program involving stretching exercises for 15 to 20 minute a day for three days a week. All of those who performed the aerobic exercises exercised for about 30 to 35 minutes during each session.
After 12 weeks, people taking part in the aerobic exercise groups saw, on average, a 47-percent decline in depressive symptoms, which is similar to outcomes seen for people treated with antidepressants or cognitive therapy. Twelve percent of the group had a complete remission of symptoms. The other groups also saw a decline in depressive symptoms, but they were not considered statistically significant.
Thus researchers say exercise may offer a viable treatment alternative to treat depression as it can be recommended for most individuals.