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There’s no single silver bullet to treat depression (not even aerobic exercise)

Exer­cise And Depres­sion Revis­it­ed (Neu­roskep­tic blog):

A new study has found lit­tle evi­dence that aer­o­bic exer­cise helps treat depres­sion, con­trary to pop­u­lar belief…Danish researchers Krogh and col­leagues ran­dom­ly 115 assigned depressed peo­ple to one of two exer­cise pro­grams. One was a stren­u­ous aer­o­bic work­out — cycling for 30 min­utes, 3 times per week, for 3 months. The oth­er was var­i­ous stretch­ing exercises…Both groups got less depressed but there was zero dif­fer­ence between the two con­di­tions. The cyclists did get phys­i­cal­ly fit­ter than the stretch­ers, los­ing more weight and improv­ing on oth­er mea­sures. But they did­n’t feel any better…If this is true, it might mean that the anti­de­pres­sant effects of aer­o­bic exer­cise are psy­cho­log­i­cal rather than phys­i­cal — it’s about the idea of ‘exer­cis­ing’, not the process of becom­ing fit­ter. This was a mod­er­ate sized study, and one study by itself does­n’t prove much — any more than one sin­gle polit­i­cal poll does. From per­son­al expe­ri­ence I think there’s a good chance stren­u­ous aer­o­bic exer­cise can boost mood… but this is a reminder that the pic­ture on exer­cise and depres­sion is not quite as clear as the recent enthu­si­asm for it sug­gests…”

Study: Aer­o­bic Exer­cise ver­sus Stretch­ing Exer­cise in Patients with Major Depression—A Ran­domised Clin­i­cal Tri­al (PLOS One). From the abstract:

  • Con­clu­sions: The results of this tri­al does not sup­port any anti­de­pres­sant effect of refer­ring patients with major depres­sion to a three months aer­o­bic exer­cise pro­gram. Due to low­er recruit­ment than antic­i­pat­ed, the tri­al was ter­mi­nat­ed pri­or to reach­ing the pre-defined sam­ple size of 212 par­tic­i­pants; there­fore the results should be inter­pret­ed in that con­text. How­ev­er, the DEMO-II tri­al does sug­gest that an exer­cise pro­gram for patients with depres­sion offer pos­i­tive short-term effects on max­i­mal oxy­gen uptake, visu­ospa­tial mem­o­ry, fast­ing glu­cose lev­els, and waist cir­cum­fer­ence.

NOTE: This does NOT mean that aer­o­bic exer­cise does­n’t bring sig­nif­i­cant cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al health ben­e­fits, as we have dis­cussed mul­ti­ple times before. It sim­ply means that we should be real­is­tic about expec­ta­tions and that, for the time being, a mul­ti-pronged approach to brain health may make more sense than rely­ing on a sin­gle sil­ver bullet–whatever that sil­ver bul­let may be (anti­de­pres­sants, cog­ni­tive behav­ioral ther­a­py, med­i­ta­tion, exer­cise…)

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Pic cour­tesy of Big­Stock­Pho­to

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Health & Wellness

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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