Exercise has been shown to ease the symptoms of depression. But how much is required to be effective? A new analysis of past studies on the issue, published in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, suggests patients can benefit from as little as three to five workouts per week lasting 45 to 60 minutes per session.
The findings, reported by researchers with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, suggest people who suffer with major depression engage in aerobic exercise that raises their heart rate to 50 to 85 percent of the individual's maximum heart rate. They also recommend a variety of upper and lower body exercises for strength training to boost the benefits.
Even if a patient can't reach the these minimum exercise goals, the researchers suggested workouts can still be helpful.
“Taken as a whole, these findings suggest that exercise doses below the current recommendations may still be beneficial for patients with [depression],” said lead researchers Chad Rethorst and Madhukar Trivedi, M.D. “Therefore, clinicians should encourage patients to engage in at least some exercise, even if they do not exercise enough to meet current public health recommendations.”
To reach their conclusions, the pair reviewed available data from randomized controlled trials, with the goal of developing specific and detailed recommendations for clinicians on how to prescribe exercise for their patients with depression.
The results indicate patients may experience improvement in depressive symptoms as little as four weeks after starting exercise.
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