How Running Can Ease Depression? A New Study Revelation



Have you ever experienced the “runner’s high”? A recent study from Vrije University in Amsterdam suggests that this running can ease depression and be just as effective as antidepressant medication!

Here’s How Running Can Ease Depression…

A recent study conducted by researchers from Vrije University in Amsterdam has shed light on the potential effectiveness of exercise, specifically running, in alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety when compared to traditional antidepressant medication.

The study, encompassing 141 participants dealing with depression and/or anxiety, presented them with the choice of either undergoing group-based running therapy or opting for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants over a 16-week period.

Remarkably, the majority of participants, a total of 96 individuals, opted for the running therapy, whereas 45 individuals chose antidepressants.

The study’s outcomes, which were recently published in the Journal of Affective Disorders and presented at the ECNP Congress in Barcelona, indicated that both running and antidepressant medications exhibited similar benefits for mental health.

However, when it came to physical health, running therapy showcased positive improvements, while antidepressants had a mildly negative impact.

One noteworthy drawback of the running therapy was the considerably higher dropout rate observed within this group.

Lead researcher Brenda Penninx, a professor at Vrije University in Amsterdam, highlighted the study’s aim to assess the impact of both exercise and antidepressants on overall health, not solely mental well-being. She emphasized the real-life choice provided to the participants, between medication and exercise, with exercise being the more popular choice.

The antidepressant group was administered Escitalopram, commonly known by its brand name Lexapro, typically prescribed to treat depression and generalized anxiety disorder. In contrast, the running group engaged in two to three closely supervised 45-minute group sessions per week. Nonetheless, adherence to the exercise regimen was notably lower, with only 52% of participants maintaining consistency, compared to an impressive 82% in the antidepressant group.

After the 16-week period, approximately 44% of individuals in both groups exhibited improvements in their depression and anxiety symptoms. Penninx emphasized that both interventions proved equally effective in mitigating depression.

However, antidepressants demonstrated adverse effects on body weight, heart rate variability, and blood pressure, whereas running therapy showed significant improvements in general fitness and heart rate.

Penninx underlined the importance of considering both therapies in the management of depression. While antidepressants are generally deemed safe and effective, they may have side effects for certain individuals.

Thus, exercise therapy, particularly running, could offer a promising alternative for select patients. Importantly, Penninx noted that various forms of exercise with minimal intensity, provided they increase fitness and are maintained over an extended period, could yield benefits for both mental and physical health.

However, she cautioned against viewing exercise as a panacea, emphasizing that it should complement, rather than replace, existing treatment modalities. The study findings suggest that exercise therapy could be a valuable addition to the treatment arsenal, offering an alternative or adjunctive option for individuals struggling with depression and anxiety.

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