Supervised aerobic exercises have large antidepressant treatment effects for patients with major depression, an analysis of randomised controlled clinical trials suggests. The study, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, showed a significantly large overall antidepressant effect compared with antidepressant medication and/or psychological therapies.
“Collectively, this study has found that supervised aerobic exercise can significantly support major depression treatment in mental health services,” said lead author Ioannis D. Morres from the University of Thessaly in Greece. For the study, the research team involved 455 adults across 11 eligible trials patients aged between 18-65 years with major depression as a primary disorder.
The supervised aerobic exercises were performed on an average for 45 minutes, at moderate intensity, three times per week, and for 9.2 weeks. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to examine the antidepressant effects of aerobic exercise versus non-exercise comparators exclusively for depressed adults.
Subgroup analyses revealed comparable effects for aerobic exercise across various settings and delivery formats, and in both outpatients and in patients regardless of symptom severity, the team said.
Also, aerobic exercise revealed moderate-to-large antidepressant effects among trials with lower risk of bias, as well as large antidepressant effects among trials with short-term interventions (up to four weeks) and trials involving preferences for exercise, they noted.