Is exercise the best treatment for severe depression?

Exercise as a treatment for severe depression  is at least as effective as standard medication or psychotherapy and, in some respects, even better. A study by researchers at Potsdam University compiled the results of 41 studies involving 2,265 people with depression. It showed that almost any type of exercise significantly reduces the symptoms of the disease. Moderate exercise, such as walking, has the best effects. Energetic workouts – running, cycling and weight training – were almost as effective. However, not all experts are convinced that exercise should be the primary treatment for depression and add that further research is needed.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)  are commonly used to treat depression, although some experts dispute the claim that the condition is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, in a recent study using positron emission tomography (PET), researchers at Imperial College London have, for the first time, found direct evidence of impaired serotonin release in the brains of people with depression.

Subsequent clinical trials have confirmed that SSRI drugs are effective in approximately ⅔ of patients. The combination of medication and therapy, on the other hand, is usually more effective than the action of medication alone. The latest science reveals new insights into the biology of depression  – serotonin is part of a complex puzzle. Depression is not a “chemical imbalance” that can be neutralised simply. External social and environmental factors can trigger it, and others can be used in the healing process.

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