Exercise or Medicine

In this recent article in CNN, health experts discuss whether exercise or medicines are better for treating depressions. “Because of the prevalence of depression and anxiety and the consequences on health, researchers from Amsterdam looked at the best way to mitigate these effects, and whether antidepressants or lifestyle intervention would have different effects on mental health as well as certain aspects of physical health”.

The study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders is said to be the first “to compare effects of antidepressants with running exercises for anxiety, depression and overall health”.

Brenda Penninx, study co-author and a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Vrije University in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, said in a news release, “Antidepressants are generally safe and effective. They work for most people. We know that not treating depression at all leads to worse outcomes, so antidepressants are generally a good choice. Nevertheless, we need to extend our treatment arsenal as not all patients respond to antidepressants or are willing to take them.”

Karmel Choi, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, who was reportedly not involved in the research, told CNN “We have long viewed exercise as an adjunct support to more formal treatments like psychotherapy or medication. Here, we see that in some cases, exercise may prove as helpful as an antidepressant, with fewer side effects and more physical health benefits.”

Ben Singh, a research fellow in allied health at the University of South Australia, and also not involved in the study, to CNN that depression varies in severity, but most studies “tend to focus on milder forms of depression because they are more common and safer to study. Severe depression typically involves intense symptoms, such as profound sadness, persistent hopelessness, suicidal thoughts or an inability to carry out daily tasks. Severe depression often necessitates a combination of treatments and close medical supervision.”

Singh added to CNN “The key is to have an open discussion with a healthcare provider who can assess your specific situation and help you make an informed decision tailored to your needs.”