There is a large and growing need to better manage the burden of major depression. Antidepressants are not universally effective, and many patients undergo a trial-and-error process to find the right regimen. Psychological therapies are about equally effective and can be expensive and difficult to access. Reducing the number of individuals who develop depression would be ideal, but identifying robust protective factors that are modifiable has proven challenging. Physical exercise has emerged as a key opportunity. In large cross-sectional studies,1 individuals who exercise report significantly better mental health. In large prospective cohort studies,2 individuals who exercise are less likely to develop depression. In randomized clinical trials,3 people who were assigned to exercise groups had greater depressive symptom reduction than those who were not. Individuals with depression who are taking antidepressants and exercise more are significantly more likely to recover than those who exercise less.4 Case closed, perhaps?
Chekroud AM. A Mendelian Randomization Approach for Assessing the Relationship Between Physical Activity and Depression. JAMA Psychiatry. 2019;76(4):361–362. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.3870
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