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Exercise Rx as a Component of Depression Therapy

Exercise Rx as a Component of Depression Therapy

New research suggests mental health providers should prescribe a non-pharmaceutical, natural remedy to aid the management of depression — exercise.

Investigators believe a strategy that combines physical activity with psychotherapy can be a very effective method to improve mood and relieve depression.

In the study, Michigan State University (MSU) and University of Michigan (U-M) researchers asked 295 patients receiving treatment at a mental health clinic whether they wanted to be more physically active and if exercise helped improve their mood and anxiety.

They also asked if patients wanted their therapist to help them become more active.

Eighty-five percent said they wanted to exercise more and over 80 percent believed exercise helped improve their moods and anxiety much of the time.

Almost half expressed interest in a one-time discussion, with many participants also wanting ongoing advice about physical activity with their mental health provider.

The study appears in the journalĀ General Hospital Psychiatry.

“Physical activity has been shown to be effective in alleviating mild to moderate depression and anxiety,” said Carol Janney, lead author of the study and an MSU assistant professor of epidemiology.

“Current physical activity guidelines advise at least 30 minutes, five days a week to promote mental and physical health, yet many of those surveyed weren’t meeting these recommendations.”

More than half of the participants said their mood limited their ability to exercise, which Janney said provides an opportunity for physicians and therapists in clinics to offer additional support.

“Offering physical activity programs inside the mental health clinics may be one of many patient-centered approaches that can improve the mental and physical health of patients,” Janney said.

Marcia Valenstein, senior author and professor emeritus in psychiatry at U-M, agreed.

“Mental health treatment programs need to partner with fitness programs to support their patients’ willingness to exercise more,” she said.

“This support might come from integrating personal trainers into mental health clinics or having strong partnerships with the YMCA or other community recreational facilities.”

Both Valenstein and Janney said that psychiatrists and other providers might discuss with patients the general need to exercise, but few actually sit down with patients and create a comprehensive exercise plan for them or regularly make sure they are adhering to a specific goal.

“Mental health providers such as psychiatrists and therapists may not have the necessary training to prescribe physical activity as part of their mental health practice,” Janney said.

“But by teaming up with certified personal trainers or other exercise programs, it may help them prescribe or offer more recommendations for physical activity in the clinic setting.”

Results also showed that over half of the patients surveyed showed interest in getting help from a personal trainer and were willing to pay a bit extra, but that the topic of physical activity was rarely discussed by their physician.

“This is a missed opportunity,” Valenstein said. “If we can make it easier for both therapists and their patients to have easier access to physical activity services, then we are likely to help more patients reduce their depression and anxiety.”

Once the effectiveness of this approach is proven, she added, health insurers might consider moving in the direction of covering services that help people exercise.

“Several insurers already do this for diabetes prevention, so it’s not out of the question.”

Source: Michigan State University

Exercise Rx as a Component of Depression Therapy

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2017). Exercise Rx as a Component of Depression Therapy. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2017/11/09/exercise-rx-as-a-component-of-depression-therapy/128540.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 9 Nov 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 9 Nov 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.