Washington: Exercise can be as effective as a second medication for as many as half of depressed patients whose condition did not improve with the help of a single antidepressant medication, a new study led by an Indian-origin researcher has suggested.
UT Southwestern Medical Center scientists found that both moderate and intense levels of daily exercise can work as well as administering a second antidepressant drug, which is often used when initial medications don``t move patients to remission.
The type of exercise needed, however, depends on the characteristics of patients, including their gender.
“Many people who start on an antidepressant medication feel better after they begin treatment, but they still don``t feel completely well or as good as they did before they became depressed,” said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry and the study``s lead author.
“This study shows that exercise can be as effective as adding another medication. Many people would rather use exercise than add another drug, particularly as exercise has a proven positive effect on a person``s overall health and well-being.”
Study participants diagnosed with depression, who ranged in age from 18 to 70 and who had not remitted with treatment using a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant medication, were divided into two groups. Each group received a different level of exercise intensity for 12 weeks.
Participants – whose average depression length was seven years – exercised on treadmills, cycle ergometers or both, kept an online diary of frequency and length of sessions, and wore a heart-rate monitor while exercising at home. They also met with a psychiatrist during the study.
By the end of the investigation, almost 30 percent of patients in both groups achieved full remission from their depression, and another 20 percent significant displayed improvement, based on standardized psychiatric measurements.
The study was recently published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.