Physical Activity May Combat Depression

Exercise may alleviate depression symptoms, but depression may keep patients from exercising

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People who exercise may have fewer symptoms of depression, new research suggests. But depressed patients may find it difficult to motivate themselves to work out.

Past studies have suggested a link between exercise and depression. The authors of the recent research wanted to study this tie.

The study authors found that patients with more depression symptoms exercised less. But the more active patients were, the fewer symptoms they had.

The study was written by Snehal M. Pinto Pereira, PhD, of University College London, and colleagues.

The research team used data from approximately 11,000 people born in Scotland, Wales and England in 1958. These patients answered surveys at ages 23, 33, 42 and 50. At age 23, the patients noted how often they had exercised in the past four weeks. At later ages, they reported how often they had exercised in the past year.

All the patients answered questions about depression. They were asked about things like depressed mood, problems with sleep and irritability.

People who were inactive at age 23 and were still not active five years later maintained the same number of depression symptoms. But those who became active as often as three times a week were found to have fewer symptoms than before, the authors reported.

The more patients exercised, the less they reported symptoms of depression. At age 50, someone who was active one more time a week had 0.60 fewer symptoms of depression than someone who exercised one time less per week, the study authors found.

Across all ages, depressed patients exercised 0.27 times less per week than people who did not report feeling depressed.

Getting active while depressed may be difficult, but starting out small can help, said Daniel Berarducci, MA, CPC, of Person-Holistic Innovations in Las Vegas.

“Often, we think of exercise routines as being 'grand and 'difficult' (meaning, you need a gym membership to exercise properly), when that is not the case,” he told dailyRx News. “Simple things, such as deep-stretching and going for a walk, can begin to activate hormones that will assist the individual to begin to feel better. So start small: a five minute walk around the block once a week or having intent every time they park their car the farthest distance from the front door of a local grocery store is a great beginning in participating in exercise.”

The study authors noted that inactive people may become obese, which may contribute to depression.

“From a clinical perspective, our study suggests that practitioners helping patients to recover from depression might address activity within their treatment plan for lifestyle factors,” the authors wrote.

This study was published Oct. 15 in JAMA Psychiatry.

The Department of Health Policy Research Programme funded the study. The authors disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
October 15, 2014
Last Updated:
October 20, 2014