A study published in the BMJ on 6th June has triggered a spurt of headlines underlying the inefficiency of exercises in aiding depression. The researchers from the Universities of Exeter, Bristol and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry set out on a mission to find out whether putting an extra physical activity to the usual care that patients with depression received through the general practitioners in the UK would really reduce depression symptoms or not.
The intervention of physical activity called TREAD (Treatment of Depression with Physical Activity) is ground on theory and offers a trained facilitator to engage in physical activity. The researchers wanted to put TREAD to a test because while there is scientific evidence to the fact that exercising is beneficial for patients with depression, it is only small studies that speak for the fact.
The study had 361 adult patients aged between 18 and 69, who had recently been diagnosed with depression. The participants were put into different groups one of which received the usual care and the other received usual care with TREAD. The data was gathered from diaries the participants wrote about their physical activity over a period of 12 months. Some participants also wore accelerometers that made sure the entries were reliable and accurate.
The participants in the group of patients receiving usual care were given the option of adhering to other forms of treatment such as meditation and counseling while the participants in the TREAD group were encouraged to engage in moderate or vigorous activity for 150 minutes per week.
The results showed that patients in the TREAD group did not seem to have experienced much change in comparison with what the usual care group did. There was no evidence whatsoever to prove that participants, who were encouraged to indulge in physical activity experienced an improvement in mood by the four month follow up point compared with the participants in the usual care group. Similarly, there was no evidence to prove that the TREAD group had a change in mood by the eighth and twelfth month follow up points.
The BMJ study is likely to encourage a more rigorous research on the matter to establish the result more firmly.