Exercise is an essential component of any massage therapist’s self-care plan. We all know that exercise improves physical strength, stamina and flexibility—and new research indicates exercise can be as effective as a second medication for as many as half of depressed patients whose condition have not been cured by a single antidepressant medication.

The investigators found that both moderate and intense levels of daily exercise can work as well as administering a second antidepressant drug, which is often used when initial medications don’t move patients to remission. The type of exercise needed, however, depends on the characteristics of patients, including their gender.

Participants – whose average depression length was seven years – exercised on treadmills, cycle ergometers or both, kept an online diary of frequency and length of sessions, and wore a heart-rate monitor while exercising at home. They also met with a psychiatrist during the study.

By the end of the investigation, almost 30 percent of patients in both groups achieved full remission from their depression, and another 20 percent significant displayed improvement, based on standardized psychiatric measurements.

Moderate exercise was more effective for women with a family history of mental illness, whereas intense exercise was more effective with women whose families did not have a history of the disease. For men, the higher rate of exercise was more effective regardless of other characteristics.

“Exercise can substitute effectively as second ‘medication’ for people with depression” was published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.

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