Depression Symptoms May Be Alleviated With Exercise and Social Interaction

depressionDepression is a serious medical condition that can be debilitating to the point of interfering with a person’s ability to function and get through everyday life, and with a staggering 25 percent of all Americans currently suffering from the illness; researchers are continually searching for ways to combat the mental disorder. The latest depression studies suggest that symptoms may be alleviated with regular exercise and social interaction.

However, there are many different types of depression and therefore; not all sufferers exhibit the same symptoms, and the frequency, severity, and duration of those symptoms vary from patient to patient as well. There is not a one size fits all solution or treatment plan for depression sufferers.

This new study was conducted specifically to determine what effect, if any; social interaction would have on depression. Researchers studied two different groups of people who had been clinically diagnosed as suffering from depression. The first group consisted of 52 people and the second group consisted of 92 people. During the study, group one was asked to participate in physical activities such as sports, yoga, sewing, and art projects, all within a social setting, while group two was asked to take part in a psychotherapy group.

The results of the study showed that people who were able to identify with other people in a social setting exhibited 50 percent less symptoms and frequency of depression episodes than those who did not interact or identify with a group. Therefore, the study suggests that those patients who put themselves in social settings and identify with others have a much better chance of overcoming depression than those who isolate themselves.

In a separate study, similar results were found when patients were asked to participate in regular exercise. Researchers studied 127 people who had been diagnosed with depression whose medications were not successful in alleviating their symptoms and found that when they exercised on a regular basis, 30 percent of them were successful in sending their depression into remission. This new information has led some doctors to suggest that patients suffering from depression should try exercising on a regular basis to alleviate symptoms when their medications are not working, together with their medications, or before turning to medication in the first place, depending on each individual patient’s needs. These separate studies show that depression symptoms may be alleviated with exercise and social interaction.

Dr. Madhukar H. Trivedi, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center located in Dallas says he talks to his patients “about the pros and cons of all available treatment options such as, exercise, therapy, and pills.” And for those patients who would rather try exercise instead of drugs, he supports them. “But I give them caveats about how they should be monitoring it,” he explains. “I don’t just say, ‘Go exercise and call me if it doesn’t work.’” Instead, Trivedi suggests that patients who choose to exercise should commit to “three to five sessions per week” with each session lasting 45 minutes to an hour and that they should reach “50 to 85 percent of their maximum heart rates.”

While exercise and social interaction may not work for everyone or for all types of depression when trying to alleviate symptoms, doctors say it could be a good alternative or accompaniment to medication for some.

By Donna W. Martin

The Atlantic
National Institute of Mental Health

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