In the largest study done to date, it was found that exercise as a treatment for severe depression is, at the very least, as effective as standard drugs (or psychotherapy) AND, by some measures, even better! How cool is that!? The study pooled data from 41 studies involving 2,265 people with depression and showed that almost any type of exercise substantially reduces depression symptoms! This means you don’t have to sign up for a marathon this fall and start training now. You don’t have to enter a heavy weight-lifting competition. You don’t have to feel like you have to do something big when it comes to exercise, you simply can just start moving your body! Something is better than nothing when it comes down to just exercise for depression.
Now certainly there is “the right amount” just like there is the right medication or dosage. To formulate exercise as a prescription for medicine, more research needs to be done to understand the optimal type, frequency, and amount of exercise for different people.
The big win here though, is that APA (American Psychological Association) and WHO (World Health Organization) do not recommend exercise as a treatment for depression, but it is studies like this that can certainly help to get it listed as such! WHO) reports that almost a billion people globally are living with a mental disorder, most typically anxiety issues, and depression. Prescribing exercise could help SO many! It could be the first line of treatment before anything else.
And not just for depression, exercise has so many health benefits that it should be prescribed for virtually anything!