Exercise can act as a second antidepressant medication for some people, effectively eliminating symptoms of depression when combined with one antidepressant drug. But men and women need different types and intensities of physical activity to get the greatest mental health benefits.
In a recent study, researchers tested the effects of different exercise programs’ effects on depression in 122 people. Participants in the study were already taking an anti-depressant drug but were still experiencing at least some symptoms of depression, such as sadness, overwhelming fatigue, and lethargy.
Usually, these people would have received a prescription for a second anti-depressant drug. Instead, study participants added daily exercise to their routines. Participants were divided into two groups. One group exercised moderately and the other intensely.
After 12 weeks, almost 30 percent of participants no longer experienced symptoms of depression, while another 20 percent felt significantly better. But men and women responded differently to the types of exercise programs, moderate or intense. Women with a family history of mental illness did better with moderate exercise, while women without that family history fared better with intense exercise. Intense physical training programs were more helpful for all of the men in the study. Findings were published in the May 2011 issue of Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
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