Running Therapy May Be as Effective as Medication for Depression

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Regular exercise can have a profound positive impact on your mental health. In fact, a recent study concluded that running therapy had effects on depression and anxiety similar to antidepressants.

Scientific work presented at the October 2023 European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) Congress in Barcelona found that an exercise program also led to more favorable physical outcomes — although the results indicated that sticking with regular activity was a challenge.

“Antidepressants work for most people — we know that not treating depression at all leads to worse outcomes; so antidepressants are generally a good choice,” says the lead study author, Brenda Penninx, PhD, a professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Vrije University in Amsterdam. “This study, however, showed that running therapy can reduce depressive symptoms, at least in some depressed persons. The effects on mental health outcomes were rather comparable to that seen in the group that used antidepressants.”

Dr. Penninx stresses that an exercise program might not replace medications, but rather be offered as an additional treatment option to be given in a well-coached and supervised way by trained staff.

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