Regular exercise does not appear to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression, a new study has claimed, contradicting the current clinical guidance, which recommends physical activities to help those suffering from the mental illness.
The research, published in the British Medical Journal, found that adding a physical activity intervention to usual care did not reduce symptoms of depression more than usual care alone.
To carry out the study, a team from Bristol University and Exeter University, recruited 361 patients aged 18 to 69 years, who had recently been diagnosed with depression. The participants were then split into two groups to receive either the physical activity intervention in addition to usual care, or usual care on its own.
Both the groups were followed up for 12 months to assess any change in their symptoms. But, it was found that adding exercise failed to alleviate symptoms of depression more than usual care alone, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The study, which is the first large-scale trial to assess the effects of exercise on depression, contrasts with clinical guidance that recommends exercise to help those suffering from the mental illness.
Previously most of the evidence for the positive effect of physical activity in treating depression has come from studies of small, non-clinical samples using interventions that would not be practicable in an NHS setting.
“Numerous studies have reported the positive effects of physical activity for people suffering with depression but our intervention was not an effective strategy for reducing symptoms,” said researcher Melanie Chalder of the University of Bristol’s School of Social and Community Medicine.
“However, it is important to note that increased physical activity is beneficial for people with other conditions such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and, of course, these conditions can affect people with depression.”
Co-researcher Dr. John Campbell from University of Exeter added: “Many suffering from depression would prefer not to have to take traditional anti-depressant medication preferring instead to consider alternative forms of therapy.
“Exercise and activity appeared to offer promise as one such treatment, but this carefully-designed research study has shown that exercise does not appear to be effective in treating depression.”