Researchers at the UT Southwestern Medical Center have concluded that moderate and intensive exercise may be just as useful as prescribing a second drug for depressed patients.
Obviously, the method of required exercise is contingent upon the characteristics of a patient, including gender.
The National Institute of Mental Health-funded study is one of the first (in the U.S.) to propose that a regular exercise routine - combined with medication - can actually relieve the symptoms of a major depressive disorder.
"Many people who start on an antidepressant medication feel better after they begin treatment, but they still don't feel completely well or as good as they did before they became depressed," said Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, professor of psychiatry and the study's lead author.
"This study shows that exercise can be as effective as adding another medication. Many people would rather use exercise than add another drug, particularly as exercise has a proven positive effect on a person's overall health and well-being."
Interestingly enough, moderate exercise was shown to be more effective for women with a family history of mental illness, while intense exercise proved to help women whose families did not have a history of the disease. With men, simply an increased amount of exercise was found to be more effective.
"This is an important result in that we found that the type of exercise that is needed depends on specific characteristics of the patient, illustrating that treatments may need to be tailored to the individual.
"It also points to a new direction in trying to determine factors that tell us which treatment may be the most effective," Trivedi added.