In a recent study, scientists have discovered that running is just as effective in alleviating depression as taking medication. Moreover, the findings highlight the greater benefits of engaging in physical activity compared to relying on antidepressants.
The research also found that people tend to opt for medication rather than running as a treatment for depression.
After scrutinizing data from 140 patients, the researchers disclosed that, despite both running and medication yielding comparable benefits, running enhances overall health, while antidepressants can have adverse long-term effects on the human body.
The researchers observed that individuals who chose antidepressants tended to exhibit slightly higher levels of depression compared to those who opted for running.
Dr. Penninx remarked, “This study provided individuals dealing with anxiety and depression a real-world choice between medication and exercise. Interestingly, the majority preferred exercise, resulting in a larger number of participants in the running group than in the medication group.”
For individuals on medication, healthcare professionals recommend timely consumption of the prescribed drugs, which does not significantly affect daily activities.
However, running or engaging in exercise was found to address the issue of a sedentary lifestyle often seen in depressed patients, who are generally encouraged to spend time outdoors, set personal goals, improve their physical fitness, and participate in group activities.
Experts also noted that fewer people adhered to physical activity when compared to the antidepressant group, despite their initial preference for running over medication.
Ultimately, half of the participants in both groups experienced improvements in depression and anxiety, with the running group additionally reporting enhancements in physical health.
The study indicated that individuals in the medication group exhibited slight adverse metabolic markers.
“Antidepressants generally had a more detrimental impact on body weight, heart rate variability, and blood pressure, while running therapy resulted in positive effects on overall fitness and heart rate, for example,” Dr. Penninx explained.
“Simply advising patients to engage in running is insufficient. Changing physical activity behaviour necessitates adequate supervision and encouragement, as we did by implementing exercise therapy in a mental health care institution,” added Dr. Pennix.