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Study found exercise better than drugs for major depression


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Not only was exercise better for depression in the short term, it had longer-lasting effects -- and the group that only exercised bested the group that combined antidepressants and exercised.

 

Effect of Exercise on Reducing Major Depression Appears to be Long-Lasting

 

By Duke Medicine News and Communications Updated: Sept. 29, 2005

 

DURHAM, N.C. - After demonstrating that 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week is just as effective as drug therapy in relieving the symptoms of major depression in the short term, Duke University Medical Center researchers have now shown that continued exercise greatly reduces the chances of the depression returning.

 

Last year, the Duke researchers reported on their study of 156 older patients diagnosed with major depression which, to their surprise, found that after 16 weeks, patients who exercised showed statistically significant and comparable improvement relative to those who took anti-depression medication, or those who took the medication and exercised.

 

The new study, which followed the same participants for an additional six months, found that patients who continued to exercise after completing the initial trial were much less likely to see their depression return than the other patients. Only 8 percent of patients in the exercise group had their depression return, while 38 percent of the drug-only group and 31 percent of the exercise-plus-drug group relapsed.

 

"The important conclusion is that the effectiveness of exercise seems to persist over time, and that patients who respond well to exercise and maintain their exercise have a much smaller risk of relapsing," said lead researcher, Duke psychologist James Blumenthal, who published the results of his team's study in the October issue of the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

 

The research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Duke researchers are now using a new $3 million NIH grant to better understand the subtle factors that may explain the positive effects of exercise in a new trial that begins enrolling patients this month.

 

"We found that there was an inverse relationship between exercise and the risk of relapsing - the more one exercised, the less likely one would see their depressive symptoms return," Blumenthal explained. "For each 50-minute increment of exercise, there was an accompanying 50 percent reduction in relapse risk.

 

"Findings from these studies indicate that a modest exercise program is an effective and robust treatment for patients with major depression," he continued. "And if these motivated patients continue with their exercise, they have a much better chance of not seeing their depression return."

 

Researchers were surprised that the group of patients who took the medication and exercised did not respond as well as those who only exercised.

 

"We had assumed that exercise and medication together would have had an additive effect, but this turned out not to be the case," Blumenthal said. "While we don't know the reasons for this, some of the participants were disappointed when they found out they were randomized to the exercise and medication group. To some extent, this 'anti-medication' sentiment may have played a role by making patients less excited or enthused about their combined exercise and medication program."

 

He suggested that exercise may be beneficial because patients are actually taking an active role in trying to get better.

 

"Simply taking a pill is very passive," he said. "Patients who exercised may have felt a greater sense of mastery over their condition and gained a greater sense of accomplishment. They may have felt more self-confident and competent because they were able to do it themselves, and attributed their improvement to their ability to exercise."

 

Once patients start feeling better, they tend to exercise more, which makes them feel even better, Blumenthal said. The greatest risk for these patients, since they are older, would be to suffer an injury or illness that would interrupt their exercise routine, he added.

 

While the researchers enrolled middle-aged and elderly people in their study, Blumenthal said it is logical to assume that the results would hold true for the general population, since older people tend to have additional medical problems or infirmities that might make regular exercise more difficult than for younger patients.

 

Researchers used the anti-depressant sertraline (trade name Zoloft), which is a member of a class of commonly used anti-depressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI).

 

Blumenthal cautioned that the study did not include patients who were acutely suicidal or had what is termed psychotic depression. Also, since patients were recruited by advertisements, these patients were motivated to get better and interested in exercise.

 

The research team included, from Duke, Michael Babyak, Steve Herman, Parinda Khatri, Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, Kathleen Moore, Teri Baldewicz and Dr. Ranga Krishnan. Edward Craighead, from the University of Colorado at Boulder also participated.

 

 

http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/119

This is not medical advice. Discuss any decisions about your medical care with a knowledgeable medical practitioner.

"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity." -- Albert Einstein

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I have seen this study somewhere else, at some point. I found the following quote to be very interesting:

 

 

Researchers were surprised that the group of patients who took the medication and exercised did not respond as well as those who only exercised.

 

 

What are these things (antidepressants) doing to our brains, that makes exercise less effective in regards to depression? How depressing.

BUT, good to see, once again, that there are viable treatments for depression that do not involve medications.

Have taken psychiatric meds since 2002.

Wellbutrin, Lexapro, Zoloft, Effexor (not sure of the dosages, or how long I took them...); have taken Clonazepam (1mg, as needed) since 2002 as well.

I was prescribed Adderall in late 2009 (after saying I had problems losing weight), stopped taking it cold turkey in Feb. 2011- made me very anxious, obviously.

Currently: Have been on Pristiq 50mg since 2008, I think. Still taking Clonazepam. Began cutting down my Pristiq dosage on July 22, 2011.

 

Also- it is my last year of grad school! I am looking forward to graduating, being med-free, and starting a new stage in my life!

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Researchers were surprised that the group of patients who took the medication and exercised did not respond as well as those who only exercised.

 

What are these things (antidepressants) doing to our brains, that makes exercise less effective in regards to depression? How depressing.

 

for me and a few others, antidepressants made us unable to exercise, even a little(even walk slow); as we know, exercise is basic to heal,

for anxiety 

12 years paxil - cold turkey 1,5 month - switch celexa 1 year taper; total 13 years on brain meds 

67 years old - 9 years  med free

 

in protracted withdrawal

rigidity standing and walking, dryness gougerot-szoegren, sleep deteriorate,

function as have a lack of nerves, improving have been very little 

 

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Researchers were surprised that the group of patients who took the medication and exercised did not respond as well as those who only exercised.

 

What are these things (antidepressants) doing to our brains, that makes exercise less effective in regards to depression? How depressing.

 

for me and a few others, antidepressants made us unable to exercise, even a little(even walk slow); as we know, exercise is basic to heal,

 

Stan... do you think it's a lack of energy or desire, rather than of a physical nature?

 

 

Charter Member 2011

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it is pseudo ataxia, pseudo fibromyalgia, weakness, dizziness, body disrupting, all since stopping paxil; it is physical , because i am so taken by physical, so i have no time to study my cognition memory which has problems;

i walked all my life without any problem which started when i was off (mild when i was on last 6 years in poop-out); since i am off, i am unable to stand quiet(ataxia)

i have some improvements but this has not improved

for anxiety 

12 years paxil - cold turkey 1,5 month - switch celexa 1 year taper; total 13 years on brain meds 

67 years old - 9 years  med free

 

in protracted withdrawal

rigidity standing and walking, dryness gougerot-szoegren, sleep deteriorate,

function as have a lack of nerves, improving have been very little 

 

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I'm so sorry you have to deal with this, Stan. I know how hard it is for you. I think of you often and always send positive thoughts your way!

 

 

Charter Member 2011

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  • 3 years later...

I know this is an older thread but I agree, exercise is good for the mind. Many times when I was so ill exercise was not an option, but after I got rid of a few drugs my old athletic drive came back and I've been exercising 3 or 4 times a week and the benefits are immeasurable. If I'm having a bad day, one of those days when a Klonopin sounds good, a 2 or 3 mile brisk walk or jog erases those bad feelings for the most part.

As requested. In the last 3 years to the best of my recollection I first dropped the max dose of Lamictal. Yes I just stopped it was doing absolutely nothing. Then I dropped Lexapro, that was even easier I had been on and off that a dozen times before. There were at least 2 odd off label attempts at anxiety that I won’t be able to remember. Then there was sweet/evil Seroquel. That was the last to go it’s been around 16 months.

Lithium, Prozac, Paxil, Wellbutrin, Effexor, Celexa, Lamictal, Lexapro, Luvox, Viibryd, Brintellix, Pristiq, Zoloft, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Geodon, Abilify, Latuda, Ritalin, Adderall, Valium, Clonazepam, Alprazolam, Propanalol, Spravato

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