Exercise can be effective at reducing symptoms of depression among people with the condition, according to a new review of studies published in The Cochrane Library, but researchers say more studies are needed on the relationship between depression and physical activity.
A team from the University of Edinburgh examined 39 past studies on depression and exercise, which included 2,326 people with depression, to find that exercise moderately benefited depression symptoms.
However, “we can’t tell from currently available evidence which kinds of exercise regimes are most effective or whether the benefits continue after a patient stops” exercising, study researcher Gillian Mead, of the university’s Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, said in a statement.
The researchers also found studies that suggested exercise was as good as antidepressants or therapy for depression, but the quality and size of those trials was both low and small. When researchers looked only at what they considered high-quality trials — six of the trials met their criteria — the association between exercise and decreased depression symptoms was weakened.
Of course, research has shown that exercise can positively affect the brain in so many other ways, beyond potentially decreasing symptoms of depression.