Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

Treat Depression Naturally With Exercise

Posted by Dr. Gray on Monday, May 11, 2009

Here is some no-nonsense advice regarding the use of exercise to treat depression. First, in mild to moderate cases, it works great. There have been tons of reports showing the beneficial effects of regular exercise in treating cases of depression. Second, the intensity of exercise is more important than the frequency. In other words, using exercise to treat depression is less effective if you don’t exercise hard enough. The length of time, or how many times, one exercises does not appear to play as significant a role.

Here’s a study I found:

A 1997 study found that mild to moderate major depressive disorder (MDD) ranked second behind ischemic heart disease in terms of years of life lost due to premature death or disability. National estimates indicate that less than one-fourth of individuals with MDD seek treatment, and only one in 10 receive adequate treatment, perhaps because of the social stigma attached with such treatment.

While exercise may be an effective treatment for MDD, primarily because it can be recommended to most individuals and does not carry a negative social stigma, insufficient evidence establishes its efficacy. A recent study was designed to test whether exercise is a beneficial treatment for mild to moderate MDD, and to determine the dose-response relation of exercise and reduction in depressive symptoms.

Adults diagnosed with mild to moderate MDD were divided into four groups that varied total energy expenditure (how hard they exercised) and frequency (how often they exercised), or to a placebo control group that participated in flexibility exercises three days a week). After 12 weeks, the group exercising at levels consistent with public health recommendations (17.5 kcal/kg/week) had the lowest scores on a depression scale, while the placebo control group had the highest scores. Average HRSD scores at 12 weeks were 47% lower than at baseline. The authors conclude: “Aerobic exercise in the amount recommended by consensus public health recommendations was effective in treating mild to moderate MDD. The amount of exercise that is less than half of these recommendations was not effective.”

Dunn AL, Trivedi MH, Kampert JB, et al. Exercise treatment for depression. Efficacy and dose response. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005;28(1):1-8.

According to this, the treatment of mild to moderate depression should include exercise strong enough to burn 8 kiloCalories per pound per week. So… if you weigh 150 lbs., you should aim burn at least 1200 kCals per week through aerobic exercise.

As a side note… research has also shown that a couple handfuls of cashews are often as effective as a dose of Prozac in easing the symptoms of depression. This stems from the high amounts of tryptophan contained in the nuts. Other good sources of tryptophan include: soybeans, red meat, bean, eggs, … basically protein foods.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: