Can exercise be a treatment for depression?

As a GP with an interest in mental health, I frequently see patients with major depression.

I have always recommended structured exercise as part of management.

So when I read news reports in June of a study that concluded that exercise is not an effective treatment of depression, I was initially shocked!

As I reflected more critically on what I knew about depression, I wondered – what is the evidence?

WHAT DOES THE EVIDENCE SAY?
Step 1: The Cochrane Library

Before appraising the new study, we’ll review the existing evidence.

A recent Cochrane systematic review for exercise for depression (February 2010) demonstrates some benefit from exercise, but the effect is rather small when the analysis is restricted to the most methodologically sound studies.1

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