Jumping on that treadmill or bike is not only good for one’s health, but also can help significantly reduce depression, say researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The first study to look at exercise alone in treating mild to moderate depression in adults aged 20 to 45 showed that depressive symptoms were reduced almost 50% in individuals who participated in 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions three to five times a week.

The results are comparable to results from studies in which patients with mild to moderate depression were treated with antidepressants or cognitive therapy, said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, director of UT Southwestern’s mood disorders research program.

The study included 80 people randomly placed into five groups. Two groups participated in moderately intense aerobics consistent with public health recommendations; one of those groups exercised three days a week and the other five days. Another two groups participated in lower-intensity aerobics for three days and five days per week, and a fifth group did stretching flexibility exercises 15 to 20 minutes three days per week.

Individuals who participated in moderately intense aerobics, such as exercising on a treadmill or stationary bicycle – whether it was for three or five days per week – experienced a decline in depressive symptoms by an average of 47% after 12 weeks. Those in the low-intensity exercise and stretching only groups showed about a 30% reduction in symptoms.

UT Southwestern Medical Center, Jan 24, 2005