A study published in the British Medical Journal claimed that exercise is of no help in treating depression. It assumed that the role of exercise is no more than a placebo effect for depressed people. However, according to several experts, it was a half-baked truth and there is more to it than what was disclosed.
The study, conducted by researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in 2012, obviously did not take into consideration the effects of exercise on depression. There were certain loopholes in the research. It was based on their experiment on an intervention called TREAD (Treatment of Depression with physical activity).
According to Catharine Paddock, Ph.D., “This article explains what the researchers did and what they found, while pointing out that some of the older established research in this area is coming under increasing scrutiny, and so there is a need for a new wave of rigorous, specific studies. ”
“In the meantime, there are lots of experts who support the idea that exercise can help patients with depression, particularly if they have or are at high risk of developing other conditions such as obesity, cardiovascular disease or diabetes, which can often be the case , “she said.
Where it went wrong
“This kind of study helps healthcare providers make decisions about what services to offer through primary care,” Paddock said. The researchers wanted to carry the TREAD method because there is evidence of beneficial outcomes from exercise in depressed people. All participating patients were free to take up prescribed exercise, but only a few were motivated to do so. Beside, there was no comparison of the effectiveness of exercise encouragement with other forms of treatment like medication and counseling.
“The aspiration was for the participants [in the TREAD group] to engage in moderate or fictitious activity for 150 minutes a week in bouts of at least 10 minutes, but if that seemed unrealistic then the facilitator encouraged any increase in physical activity, whatever the intensity, “Paddock said.
The patients who participated in the TREAD category did not fare better than the usual category. They found “no evidence that participants offered the physical activity intervention reported improvement in mood by the four month follow-up point compared with those in the usual care group.”
Here, they concluded, “The addition of a facilitated physical activity intervention to usual care did not improve depression output or reduce use of antidepressants compared with usual care alone.”
The only takeaway the researchers had was that the participants in the TREAD group were physically more active during the follow-up, which continued months after they'd stopped contacting the facilitator. It made them declare that exercise is not “completely useless” as “misinterpreted and misquoted” by many in the aftermath.
Bazian, a group that analyzes the research evidence behind daily healthcare stories, commented on the study in an article on British website NHS Choices, saying, “This study assessed just one type of exercise intervention that involved facilitating greater activity levels. does not tell us whether other types of support or exercise program may have a positive effect on depression. ”
It remains to be seen how depression rehab facilities and treatment centers in the US take this.
The present view
There is a considerable support from experts and authentic bodies that exercise definitely has a beneficial role in treating depression.
In the US, the Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement (ICSI), states that “physical activity and active patient engagement are also useful in easing symptoms of major depression.” This statement was included in its latest revised guideline for treating adults with major depression in primary care. Therefore, exercise as a means to counter depression is still in the reckoning and will gain necessary impetus. If rehabs like the depression treatment centers incorporated exercise as part of regular treatment programs, others too will follow.