Exercise can be as effective as a second medication for those battling depression, according to new research.
Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre in the US conducted a four-year study of 18 to 70-year-olds who had suffered from depression for an average of seven years.
Participants were divided into two groups with different exercise regimes - on treadmills or cycling machines - for 12 weeks.
By the end of the 12 weeks almost 30% of patients in each group were no longer experiencing their depressive symptoms and a further 20% were showing significant improvements.
The study found that women who had a family history of mental illness benefited most from moderate exercise, while those without a family history gained the most from intense exercise.
In men, intense exercise was most beneficial, regardless of whether or not they had a family history of depression.
Lead author and professor of psychiatry Dr Madhukar Trivedi said: “Many people who start on 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.
“This study shows that exercise can be as effective as adding another medication.”
The findings, which are published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, may have important implications for the future of depression treatment.