Does Exercise Help Depression?

So Does Exercise Help Depression? Or is it a placebo effect?

Exercise may benefit people suffering from depression, according to the latest research published in The Cochrane Library.

What if instead of being LIMITED to Antidepressants and psychological therapies people used physical exercise as a treatment for depression?

In this review of the research the authors looked at the results of 39 trials involving 2,326 people diagnosed with depression.

In 35 trials comparing exercise with control treatments or no treatment, the researchers saw moderate benefits of exercise for treating depression. Exercise was as effective as psychological therapy or taking antidepressants, although these findings were based on only a few, small, low quality trials.

“Our review suggested that exercise might have a moderate effect on depression,” said one of the authors of the review, Gillian Mead of the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, UK. “We can’t tell from currently available evidence which kinds of exercise regimes are most effective or whether the benefits continue after a patient stops their exercise program.”

He continued, “The evidence base would be strengthened by further large-scale, high quality studies.”

Notice what other experts say on the matter of whether exercise helps depression:

The mayoclinic tells us:

“Exercise probably helps ease depression in a number of ways, which may include:

  • Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters and endorphins)
  • Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression
  • Increasing body temperature, which may have calming effects”

The Baltimore sun in their article, Exercise may help alleviate depression: review tells us that Mead and her fellow researchers found that “many people prefer alternative treatments, and some doctors recommend exercise  as a potential option.

Because the studies used various scales to assess depression, they converted the  results into a single measurement to compare people in exercise and non-exercise  groups. Using that measurement, a difference between groups of 0.2 represents a  small effect, 0.5 a moderate effect and 0.8 a large effect.

Mead’s team found a 0.62-point difference in depressive symptoms favoring people  who exercised.”

Based on the scale used that would make exercise as having a MEDIUM effect on depression.

Notice that means “exercise appeared to reduce depressive symptoms as much as psychotherapy  or antidepressant medications. But Mead cautioned that those findings are only  based on data from a small number of trials.”

That is GREAT news.

However they cautioned: “One has to be  careful saying it was as effective as other therapies,” and added that it’s still unknown how exercise affects depression.


In another study James Clear shows the impact of exercise on depression.

“Each patient received treatment for 16 weeks under the supervision of the researchers and professional staff. At the end of the treatment period, the researchers were surprised to find that all three treatments delivered essentially equal results.

Treating depression with exercise was just as effective as medication, and vice versa.”

But what about the LONG term results?

exercise VS. depression

Six months later, here’s what the researchers found:

  • In the medication only group, 38% of patients relapsed into depression.
  • In the exercise and medication group, 31% of patients relapsed into depression.
  • In the exercise only group, only 8% of patients relapsed into depression.

That is TRULY exciting, isn’t it?

In another report – exercise can help alleviate depression, the researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center have found that moderate  and intensive exercise may be just as  useful as prescribing a second drug for  depressed patients.

“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.”

Are their naysayers?

There always will be those that say that exercise doesn’t help depression.

Notice this article, in scientific journal after a report came out saying exercise doesn’t help: Exercise doesn’t help depression? Let’s take a real look at that study.

In conclusion, exercise.

It will help YOU.

Will it CURE your depression … NO!

But it will HELP manage your moods day by day.

If YOU are struggling with depression why not reach out to a Pine Bush Therapist for a free phone consultation today?


The staff at




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