The Most Powerful Treatment for Depression?

It’s Mental Health Week in Canada, and going for a “stupid walk” for our “stupid mental health” is a funny meme making the rounds

But there’s a powerful reason people are taking those stupid walks:

Those who exercise regularly are far less likely to experience depression. This is true for ALL ages and genders.  

New research pooling data from 41 studies of 2200 people with depression showed that any type of exercise reduces symptoms of depression. 

The meta-study showed people with depression who exercised in any way improved their symptoms by between 5-6.5 points depending on which depression scale was used. For reference, an improvement of 3 points is the best outcome for most pharmaceuticals.  

These numbers suggest that, for every two people with depression who start to exercise, one of them should experience “a large-magnitude reduction in depressive symptoms.” 

This FAR exceeds the benefits derived from medications.  

The Three Things that Help You Exercise More

So how can you get more of the depression wonder drug known as exercise? We’ve had 10,000 patients come through the doors here at StoneTree, and we know there are three things that make a difference:

  1. Schedule it. Treat it like you would any critically important thing in your life by putting it in the calendar. Most people underestimate just how powerful this simple step is. 
  2. Exercise with others. Create an accountability partner who expects you to show up. A friend, a family member. Even a coach.
  3. Start small but be consistent. Consistency beats all! You don’t have to walk 10,000 steps on your first. Just get out there for ten minutes, but make that 10 minutes a habit, every day.   

Each of those three is a habit-change lever. How many can you pull?

People also suggest you find an activity you like. That does indeed make exercise easier. The tricky part with depression is that often you don’t like anything

If you don’t feel like moving your body, try the strategies above. It’s more important to do it than to like it.

Depression can be serious. Talk to a regulated health professional if you are having thoughts of self-harm. Talk Suicide Canada is available 24/7/365 for calls, and 4 PM—12 AM ET for texts at 1-833-456-4566.