Physical activity may not combat depression

Engaging in high levels of physical activity might not necessarily help combat depression, new research has found. Published in the British Medical Journal, the study showed adding exercise interventions to usual care did not reduce symptoms of the condition to a great extent.

Investigators from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry noted their findings go against current clinical guidance that suggests being active can bring additional benefits for those experiencing depression.

Melanie Chalder from the School of Social and Community Medicine at the University of Bristol, said: "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."

Despite this, Ms Chalder explained exercise can prove advantageous to individuals with illnesses that can affect the condition, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

A total of 361 patients between the ages of 18 and 69 recently diagnosed with depression took part in the study, with half of them receiving physical activity interventions and being re-assessed after 12 months.

Philip Johnson, a Chartered Psychologist, comments:

"I have personally worked with clients with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression on attending regular visits to sport centres, benefiting from exercise, weight management, sociability, and by definition, counteracting social isolation, low mood, and high expressed emotion.

"From a physiological perspective exercise is known to generate the release of serotonin and dopamine, which lift mood. There is a direct relationship between energy, mood, motivation and performance.

"I find the results of the Exeter and Bristol research difficult to fully accept based on the wealth of other evidence and personal experience. exercise has been constantly recommended as part of the basis of well-being, as a destressor for stress in the workplace, reduction of anxiety, and having an impact upon negative self concept."