Yet another research article has been published on the positive impact exercise can have on mood and depression. This time the research seems to be a meta-analysis study done by Jasper Smits, director of Southern Methodist University’s Anxiety Research and Treatment Program, and Michael Otto, psychology professor at Boston University, who co-authored Exercise for Mood and Anxiety Disorders: Therapist guide in 2021.
Meta-analysis is a review of several different research studies to combine the results of all of them. This is important because the method used in the individual studies can greatly influence the results, and correlations may be less general then they appear.
Smits and Otto seem to have a lofty goal in proving, as other research (as old as 1999) has suggested, that exercise can be as effective as anti-depressant medications in treating depression long-term. Considering the common side effects of such medications, exercise can be a very appealing treatment. Taking a pill may require less time and effort, but what is the cost to your health and finances?
In reading about this research, I was most impressed by the idea that stagnation may be a contributing factor in some cases of depression, considering the fact that throughout most of history humans had to be physically active for at least part of the day. Robots, microwavable meals, and computers have created a much more stagnate lifestyle for many people.
While Smits and Otto wait for FDA approval of their exercise treatment plan, why not try it out in your own life? Exercise can be free, improve your health, and maybe even improve mood.
If you stick with an exercise plan, how long can you keep depression at bay without the assistance of anti-depressants? Other research has shown that the combination of therapy with anti-depressants has been more effective than anti-depressants alone. I would guess that therapy or coaching combined with an exercise plan could be very effective in treating depression.