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|Clinicians Digest Jan/Feb 2008 - Page 9|
While more than 20 years of studies have found that exercise is an effective treatment for depression, matching that of antidepressants, most of them have been hampered by methodological shortcomings. Now, for the first time, a study by researchers from Duke, Emory, and the University of North Carolina, reported in the September Psychosomatic Medicine , addresses these shortcomings and supports the earlier findings. Led by Duke University psychologist James Blumenthal, it finds that following four months of treatment, exercise and medication (Zoloft) worked equally and significantly well on mild, moderate, and severe depressions.
Previous exercise studies haven't teased out how much of the improvement was due to the exercise itself, how much to the social support from researchers and fellow exercisers, and how much to the subjects' expectations that they'd improve. Blumenthal solved these shortcomings by using four groups: 51 participants attended three supervised, group aerobic-exercise sessions per week; 53 did the same regimen at home (keeping logs and being monitored periodically); 49 took Zoloft; and 49 took a placebo. About 45 percent of each of the active-treatment groups improved enough to put their major depressions into remission, as opposed to 31 percent of the placebo group. By comparing group and at-home exercise, as well as placebo, the study demonstrates that improvement in depression comes directly from the exercising.