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Nancy Schimelpfening

Exercise May Be As Effective As an Antidepressant

By September 18, 2007

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Regular exercise could help depression just as effectively as an antidepressant, says a new study published in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

James A. Blumenthal, a professor of psychology at Duke University, and his team conducted the first ever placebo-controlled clinical trial comparing exercise and an antidepressant. This is significant because this type of research is considered to be the gold standard.

The researchers sorted 202 patients into four groups. After 16 weeks, 47 percent of the group who took the antidepressant Zoloft improved. The groups who exercised--either with or without supervision--had an improvement of 45 percent and 40 percent respectively. An analysis of the groups who exercised versus the group who took an antidepressant found the difference between them to not be statistically significant. In other words, Zoloft and exercise were equally effective. About 30 percent of those in the placebo group improved, which was an expected result. Participants in clinical trials often experience an improvement in symptoms simply due to the power of suggestion.

Blumenthal speculates that exercise lifts mood by increasing either endorphin or serotonin levels in the brain. Endorphins are thought to work as natural painkillers while serotonin is believed to affect mood.

If you are considering starting an exercise program, About.com is a great place to begin. It is recommended that you consult with your physician before starting any new exercise program.

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