Aerobic Exercise Can Reduce Depression Symptoms by 55%, Says New Study


The mental health benefits of moving your body can’t be understated. The link between exercise and improved mental health has been studied extensively as researchers try to nail down what types of exercise are the most effective.

A recently published study found that aerobic exercise (including walking, swimming, running and cycling) is particularly good for those with depression. 66 adults who experience major depression were recruited for the eight-week trial and the participants were split into two groups.

According to BEAUTYcrew, one group were asked to complete a form of aerobic exercise every day, while the second group engaged in light-intensity stretching. The aerobic exercise completed by the first group of participants was found to alleviate their symptoms of depression by 55%.

The light-intensity stretching reduced the second group’s symptoms by 31% in comparison. The researchers also made an interesting finding among the participants who completed the aerobic exercise.

These people tended to have worse depressive symptoms coupled with greater levels of reward processing in the brain, Inverse reported.

According to Brandon Alderman, the study’s lead author, generally, those with lower reward processing see greater improvements from traditional treatments for depression like drugs or therapy.

“Actually, several recent studies showed that depressed patients with lower, as opposed to greater reward processing as found in our study, experienced greater symptom improvement following treatment with cognitive-behavioral therapy and SSRIs [traditional anti-depressant drugs,” he told Inverse.

These findings seem to show that those who get the most out of exercise as a treatment are the same people who are predicted to benefit less from those traditional treatments.

“Even light walking is beneficial for depression,” Alderman said. “Our findings of a greater anti-depressant effect following moderate-intensity aerobic exercise relative to light stretching suggests that even greater benefits can be derived from more vigorous exercise.”

There is definitely no one size fits all approach for the treatment of depression but if aerobic exercise works for you, go with it!

If you or anyone you know is struggling and needs support, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14, both of which provide trained counsellors you can talk with 24/7. You can also speak with someone confidentially at Headspace by calling 1800 650 890 or chat online here.

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