Blog Post No. 163
By Dr Jim Byrne
6th March 2018
Dr Jim’s Counselling Blog:
Exercise is better than antidepressants for major depression!
The science behind mental health
Copyright (c) Jim Byrne, 2018
In a recent blog post regarding hype about antidepressants, I quoted Dr Joanna Moncrieff as saying this: “Calling for antidepressants to be more widely prescribed will do nothing to address the problem of depression and will only increase the harms these drugs produce. …” This is so because the drugs are not significantly more effective than a sugar pill, but they have huge side effects. They also distract attention from some of the real solutions to depression, which involve changes in significant areas of social policy, and the promotion of healthy lifestyles, including healthy diet and adequate amounts of daily physical activity (exercise).
You can read that blog post here: https://abc-counselling.org/2018/02/27/hype-about-antidepressants/
And in her latest blog post, Renata Taylor-Byrne presents some interesting information about the use of Chinese exercises in connection with promoting good mental health (in the form of resilience in the face of life’s stressors).
You can read Renata’s blog post here: https://abc-counselling.org/2018/03/02/build-resilience-with-chinese-exercise/
In today’s blog post, I want to present some evidence which shows that there is good scientific evidence that physical exercise is much more effective than antidepressants for eliminating major, clinical depression!
We do not need antidepressants, and indeed, they cause harm through numerous negative side effects.
In our book about how to control your anger, anxiety and depression; in a section which specifically addresses the value of physical exercise, Renata Taylor-Byrne and I make this point:
A key research study was undertaken by Blumenthal et al. (1999 and 2012).
The goal of the research project was to compare the effectiveness of exercise against an anti-depressant called Sertraline (which is called Lustral in the UK and Zoloft in the US). Sertraline is one of a group of drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s).
Three groups of participants (156 people in total) were randomly assigned to three different research conditions.
– Group 1 received Zoloft for their depression.
– The second group were given exercise activities to do.
– And Group 3 was given a combination of Zoloft and exercise.
The results showed that all of the three groups showed a distinct lowering of their depression, and approximately half of each group had recovered from their depression by the time the research project had finished. (Thirteen percent had reduced symptoms but didn’t completely recover).
Then six months later Blumenthal and colleagues examined the health of the research participants and found that, over the long haul:
#1. 30% of the exercise group remained depressed,
#2. 52% on medication remained depressed,
#3. while 55% in the combined treatment group remained depressed.
This means the 70% of the exercise group got over their symptoms of depression, compared with only 48% of the medication group, and 45% of the combined group).
Let us repeat that result:
70% of participants got over major depression through exercise alone!
A year later there was a second study, identical to the first one, and when the participants were reassessed a year later (by Hoffman and his colleagues), they found that, regardless of the treatment group the participants had been in, the participants who described doing regular exercise, after the research project had finished, were the least likely to be depressed a year later. And this study was about major depression – not mild depression!
The NHS in the UK, on their website, support the view that exercise is good for mild or moderate depression, but they don’t clarify that it can also be invaluable for major depression, which was demonstrated by Blumenthal’s 1999 and 2012 research findings.
In a very interesting book, ‘Spark’, (2009) – on the science of exercise and the brain – the authors, Ratey and Hagerman, comment upon the findings of Blumenthal’s and Hoffman’s research, like this:
“The results (of this research, showing the effectiveness of exercise in reducing depression) should be taught in medical schools and driven home with health insurance companies and posted on the bulletin boards of every nursing home in the country, where nearly half of the residents have depression” (page 122).
However, this is not currently done, because big drug companies dominate the medical profession, with their delusion that antidepressants are highly effective, which they are not! Indeed, there is research evidence to support the view that most antidepressants tested against placebos are no more effective than the placebo (or sugary pill!)
You can find out more about the book in which we have produced these results, here: How to control your anger, anxiety and depression.***
This book shows you, in fine detail, how to change your habits in relation to physical exercise! And describes the benefits you will gain!
That’s all for today!
Dr Jim Byrne
Doctor of Counselling
01422 843 629
 Blumenthal, J.A., Smith, P.J., and Hoffman, B.M. (2012) Is exercise a viable treatment for depression? American College of Sports Medicine Health & Fitness Journal. July/August; Vol.16(4): Pages 14–21.
Cited in: Ratey, J., and Hagerman, E. (2009) Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. London: Quercus.