Antidepressants vs Exercise

If we’re not exercising and not moving our bodies, we are 1 and a half times more likely to suffer from depression. In a landmark study at Duke University in 1999 James Blumenthal and his colleagues did a 16-week experiment where they randomly divided 156 patients suffering from depression into 3 groups.

One group was prescribed the antidepressant Sertraline (commonly known as Zoloft), another was assigned a regular exercise routine, and the third was assigned both. In all 3 cases the group showed a significant drop in depression, and about half of each group were in complete remission. Another 13% experienced fewer symptoms but didn’t fully recover. Exercise was just as effective as an antidepressant. But the beauty of this is that there are 0 side effects and it’s free.

So how much exercise was this group doing? Was it Crossfit? Spinning? Tri-athlete training? Not even close. All they had to do was walk or jog at 70-80% of their aerobic capacity for 30 minutes, plus a 10 minute warm up and 5 minute cooldown. And they only had to do this 3 times per week. Think about it… just by moving their bodies every other day, their depression could be reduced or completely eliminated.

If we’re talking in terms of medication, going for a run is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin, because (like these drugs) exercise elevates the same neurotransmitters. A fairer description would be that exercise balances these neurotransmitters. By moving our bodies we’re getting the same results without any side effects because our bodies have evolved to do this over the last 200,000 years!

Take some time. Treat yourself. Let’s make a change.