Exercise with Medication for Depression shows No Signs of Improvement


Exercise with Medication for Depression shows No Signs of Improvement

June 7, 2012: The researchers have found that the combination of exercise and the conventional treatment for depression shows no improvement in recovery of patients suffering from depression. As per the study funded by National Health Service (NHS), there was no difference in two groups of patients a year later, even after a group was helped by researchers to boost their activity levels apart from receiving anti-depressant. This research was conducted as well as funded under a government supported programme – National Institute for Health Research.

Medication Exercise

It is to be noted that the study was conducted on 361 patients for a year. Amongst these some were helped to boost their activity levels along with their medical therapy. A year later, all the 361 patients exhibited few signs of depression and there was no specific difference between the group helped and the normal group. The researchers helped the group to do exercise thrice in a week. This study was published in the British Medical Journal.

Professor of public health at King’s College London, Alan Maryon-Davis said, “This is a huge disappointment because we were hoping exercise would help lift depression. But we need to bear in mind that these were patients already on medication, so it considers exercise on top of medical care. It did not look at mild depression nor did it consider exercise as an alternative to medication.”

Further explaining on the matter, Prof. Alan Maryon-Davis said that an active body helps in producing healthy mind.  “The message mustn’t be to stop exercising. Exercise has so many other benefits – it is good in terms of heart disease, lowers blood pressure, has a beneficial effect on the balance of fats in the blood, strengthens muscles, and burns up calories. A lot of people who have depression may have other problems too. And an active body helps to produce a healthy mind,” he said.

This study was conducted by teams from the University of Bristol and Exeter. The teams were looking at how physical activities actually function in a real clinical setting. All the 361 patients were given proper medical treatment as per their depression level. In addition to this, few out of the randomly allocated group were advised on how to increase their activity level on up to 13 separate occasions for eight months. The individual patients were free to increase an activity of their choice up to the level they want.

Although this approach resulted in many patients performing more physical activity over a sustained period of time improving their general health, the researchers found no additional reduction in depression symptoms in more active group at the year’s end.

A team member who contributed to the study, Prof. John Campbell from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry said, “Many patients suffering from depression would prefer not to have to take traditional anti-depressant medication, preferring instead to consider alternative non-drug based forms of therapy.”

He further added saying, “Exercise and activity appeared to offer promise as one such treatment, but this carefully designed research study has shown that exercise does not appear to be effective in treating depression.” However, he added that many of the patients often facing other health problems as well might be at overall health benefit due to encouragement in active lifestyle.

He tried to explain saying that the message of the study is not to convey – exercise is not good for people, but to inform that it is not effective for treating people with quite severe depression. He also said, “That buzz we all get from moderate intensity of exercise is certainly acknowledged but it’s not sustained and it’s not appropriate for treating people with depression.”

Further analysing such type of study, it was found that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) drew a similar advice in the year 2004. In 2004, Nice said that the increased physical activity could be of help to only those who suffer from mild depression as per the research reports available.

Currently, the NHS has the authority to refer patients for a course of supervised exercise sessions for various treatments including depression. Therefore, these findings will be mostly likely taken into account after the next time Nice reviews its guidelines.

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