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Depression and Breathing

Aerobics Provide Fast Improvement Of Severe Depression

British Journal of Sports Medicine

By Harvey McConnell

Aerobic exercise can work faster than antidepressants to lift severity of symptoms in patients with major depression.

Positive results accrued in a pilot study among seven women and five men, average age 49 years, with major depressive episodes diagnosed according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Revision IV which had lasted an average of nine months. Among 10 patients previous use of antidepressant drugs had failed to substantially improve their symptoms.

In the study by Dr. Fernando Dimeo and colleagues at the Department of Sports Medicine, Freie University of Berlin, Germany, the 12 patients took part in training consisting of walking on a treadmill following an interval training pattern and was carried out for 30 minutes a day for 10 days.

The exercise entailed walking on a treadmill for 30 minutes every day. Three minutes of intense activity were alternated with walking at half speed for three minutes. Intensity was increased as heart rate adapted to the training program.

Depression severity was measured at the start and end of the program, and patients also rated their mood at the beginning, middle and end of the 10 days using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression.

After 10 days, six patients were substantially less depressed, including five in whom drug treatment had been largely unsuccessful. Two were slightly less depressed, while the severity of symptoms was unchanged in four patients. Overall, depression scores fell by one-third, and self-assessed scores fell by 25 percent.

Six patients asked to continue the program.

Dr. Dimeo and colleagues point out that their program produces a substantial improvement in symptoms in a short time. "Given the fact that anti-depressive drugs have latency times of two to four weeks before any therapeutic effect, the observed outcomes indicate a clinical benefit not obtainable with currently available pharmacological treatments.

"Furthermore, a substantial percentage of patients show no improvement despite an optimal dosage of antidepressants. For these patients, aerobic training could offer a safe therapeutic option. Indeed, in our study, five of 10 patients with treatment-refractory depression showed a substantial improvement in symptoms during the training program, and they strongly suggested aerobic exercise as a cause of the improvement.

"In the light of these positive findings, a randomized controlled study has been started to evaluate the effects of an aerobic training program on patients with major depression," researchers conclude.

British Journal of Sports Medicine 2001;35:114-117.

More about Depression and breathing   Turn Depression into Unstoppable Spirit 

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