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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


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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