Exercise Could Be an Important Part of Depression Treatment

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Source: Mike Baird

Source: Mike Baird

Exercise has numerous well-known health benefits, but man are unfamiliar with the use of exercise to help manage depression. While exercise isn’t quite a direct depression treatment, it does act as an adjunct treatment for relieving symptoms associated with multiple mental illnesses including depression.

It is so useful in addressing many the many symptoms of depression that researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern are suggesting for mental health professionals to prescribe exercise for patients with major depressive disorder (MDD).

“Exercise is really important in treating depression,” Chad Rethorst, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychiatry, said at the APA annual meeting session titled “Exercise Prescription for Major Depressive Disorder” in New York in May. In a follow-up interview with Psychiatric News, Rethorst stated that given the challenges in treating depression, it is important to have as many treatment options as possible, alongside antidepressants, that can aid in reducing symptoms associated with MDD.

Rethorst says the use of exercise is gaining support, noting the inclusion of exercise as an intervention option in the APA’s “Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Patients With Major Depressive Disorder” that was published in 2010, however many physicians remain unfamiliar with the idea of “prescription exercise.”

The biggest hurdle facing the concept of exercise programs as an adjunct treatment for MDD is the concern that MDD patients may be unwilling to participate. But, Rethorst emphasized that multiple studies have shown dropout rates consistently around 15 percent, which is on par with rates in studies on the efficacy of medications and psychotherapies.

“Time is the number-one barrier that keeps people from exercising—whether a person has a diagnosis for mental illness or not,” said Rethorst. “Having the conversation of ‘time’ with the patient and helping patients realize that there is some window of time throughout their schedule to fit in exercise is really important.

Rethorst also encouraged the inclusion of using electronic and mechanical devices such as pedometers or smartphone apps that can aid in increasing patients’ adherence to physical activity regimens.

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