Exercise and depression: A review of the evidence

15 Sep

The Cochrane Reviews are comprehensive and systematic examinations of different health interventions. One of the most important keys to  understanding research is to understand that a single study rarely resolves an issue. One must look at both the quality of individual studies and the overall weight of the evidence.

The Cochrane Reviews try to provide that kind of overview.

A  recent Cochrane report on the effects of exercise on depression finds:

“Exercise is moderately more effective than no therapy for reducing symptoms of depression.
Exercise is no more effective than antidepressants for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on a small number of studies.
Exercise is no more effective than psychological therapies for reducing symptoms of depression, although this conclusion is based on small number of studies.
The reviewers also note that when only high-quality studies were included, the difference between exercise and no therapy is less conclusive.
Attendance rates for exercise treatments ranged from 50% to 100%.
The evidence about whether exercise for depression improves quality of life is inconclusive.”

Thus, the claim that “exercise is the best anti-depressant” is not supported by the evidence. On the other hand, exercise may be a helpful adjunct to other therapeutic interventions.

One Response to “Exercise and depression: A review of the evidence”

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