What Did The Researchers Do?
The BMJ study researchers, from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, wanted to find out whether adding a specific physical activity intervention to the usual care that patients with depression receive up their general practitioners (GPs) in the UK, would significantly reduce their symptoms.
The intervention, called TREAD treatment of Depression with physical activity), is based on theory, and provides a trained facilitator who gives alone tailored backing and assistance to engage in physical activity, write the researchers.
What did the research involve?
The researchers recruited 361 patients, aged 18 to 69 years old, who had freshly been diagnosed with depression by their GP. Participants were randomly divided into two groups, who received either usual care methods from their GP or usual care plus a physical activity intervention.
Participants were recruited if they were not taking antidepressant aid at the time of initial diagnosis or if they had been prescribed antidepressants but had not taken these for at least four weeks before their diagnosis. Patients with depression who had failed to respond previously to antidepressants were ban from the study, as were people aged 70 or over.
You don’t have to exercise.
Be honest with yourself. Why do you want to exercise? If you’re doing it as it’s a positive step you want to take for your health, that’s great. If it’s something you used to like doing and you think you might enjoy doing it again if you can just push through the misery and inertia? That works, too. If you’re just doing it as you think that you should, though, or if it becomes just another way to punish yourself, that doesn’t work. If you can find an action that safely works with both your abilities and your mindset, go with that.
If you can’t come up with a single plan where the risk built-in in the attempt itself won’t outweigh any benefit you might get from it, then don’t do it. Take a break from the very idea of exercise and come back at it again in a few days to see if your angle has changed. If not, repeat as necessary. Unless that repetition itself is only exacerbating your depression — then step away from that, too. In short, exercise can’t help with your abasement if even reasoning about exercise is making you more depressed.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the fitness industry’s ceaseless fixation with finding the best possible exercises, diets, and bodies. It’s easier still to get baffled by the constantly shifting goalposts of what constitutes “The Best” within that world.
Cardio is in one year and out the next. The ideal glute size keeps shifting. Even the perfect tightness for the pelvic floor is in flux right now. It’s arguable whether or not any of these trends actually help any population, but they’re particularly useless for the depressed exerciser. Ignore them. The perfect exercise is anything that you will actually consider doing. The perfect body is a breathing one. Anything that serves those ends is worth considering. Everything else is noise.
What were the basic results?
At month four, compare to anxiety there were no statistically significant improvements in mood among participants encouraged to exercise compared to those in the usual care group. Similarly, there was no evidence that the intervention group had significantly improved mood at the 12-month follow-up compared to those receiving usual care only. There was no evidence that the exercise intervention led to a statistically significant reduction in the use of antidepressants compared to usual care.