Just 25 minutes of vigorous daily exercise can help beat depression, claim doctors.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 1:17PM BST 12 Apr 2010
Researchers found that a workout reduces stress and anger and boosts the sense of physical wellbeing.
They claim physical exercise should be more widely prescribed as a treatment to tackle depressive or anxiety disorders.
"Exercise can fill the gap for people who can't receive traditional therapies because of cost or lack of access, or who don't want to because of the perceived social stigma associated with these treatments," he said.
"Exercise also can supplement traditional treatments, helping patients become more focused and engaged.
"Individuals who exercise report fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, and lower levels of stress and anger.
"Exercise appears to affect, like an antidepressant, particular neurotransmitter systems in the brain, and it helps patients with depression re-establish positive behaviours."
The team from the university's Anxiety Research and Treatment Programme analysed past studies and found traditional treatments of cognitive behavioural therapy and drug treatments do not reach everyone who needs them.
However exercise could help relieve symptoms such as "fears of fear and related bodily sensations such as a racing heart and rapid breathing".
"The more therapists who are trained in exercise therapy, the better off patients will be," Prof Smits said.
Patients were subjected to either 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity.
He said: "Rather than emphasise the long-term health benefits of an exercise program – which can be difficult to sustain – we urge providers to focus with their patients on the immediate benefits.
"After just 25 minutes, your mood improves, you are less stressed, you have more energy – and you'll be motivated to exercise again tomorrow. A bad mood is no longer a barrier to exercise – it is the very reason to exercise."
As well as an exercise regime, patients also benefit from a daily schedule and targets which may also help in combating the mental illness.
The findings were presented at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorder Association of America in Baltimore.