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Running as good as antidepressants for mental health benefits, and a winner in physical health

A recent study comparing the effects of running exercises and antidepressants for the treatment of anxiety, depression, and overall health reveals that both approaches yield similar benefits for mental health. However, a 16-week running regimen outperforms antidepressants in terms of improving physical health, while the medication group experiences a slight decline in physical condition.

The study involved 141 patients grappling with depression and/or anxiety, who were offered the choice between a 16-week course of SSRI antidepressants or group-based running therapy. Of these, 45 individuals opted for antidepressants, while 96 chose running.

Treatment with antidepressants involved adhering to a prescribed medication regimen, with minimal direct impact on daily behaviors. In contrast, exercise addressed the sedentary lifestyle often observed in patients with depressive and anxiety disorders, promoting outdoor activity, goal setting, fitness improvement, and group participation.

The antidepressant group received the SSRI Escitalopram for 16 weeks, while the running group aimed for two to three closely supervised 45-minute group sessions per week over the same period.

At the end of the trial, approximately 44% of participants in both groups showed improvements in depression and anxiety symptoms. However, the running group also demonstrated enhancements in weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and heart function. Conversely, the antidepressant group exhibited a slight tendency toward deterioration in these metabolic markers.

Reference: European College of Neuropsychopharmacology

Meeting: 36th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) conference

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