Exercise as an Adjunct to Medication Does Not Help Depression


A study of 361 adults with depression published online in the British Medical Journal today finds no evidence that facilitated physical activity improved depression outcome or reduced use of antidepressants compared with treatment-as-usual (antidepressants without exercise) at four-, eight-, and 12-month follow-ups.

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Note from Kermit Cole, “In the News” editor:
The study does not compare the effect of exercise on people not taking antidepressants to people taking them. Further, the study is investigating the effect of a relatively mild exercise intervention, as this Scientific American article points out.


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Kermit Cole
Kermit Cole, MFT, founding editor of Mad in America, works in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a couples and family therapist. Inspired by Open Dialogue, he works as part of a team and consults with couples and families that have members identified as patients. His work in residential treatment — largely with severely traumatized and/or "psychotic" clients — led to an appreciation of the power and beauty of systemic philosophy and practice, as the alternative to the prevailing focus on individual pathology. A former film-maker, he has undergraduate and master's degrees in psychology from Harvard University, as well as an MFT degree from the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia. He is a doctoral candidate with the Taos Institute and the Free University of Brussels. You can reach him at [email protected].


  1. I’m not seeing any data on the effectiveness of the antidepressants in either study arm; some patients in both groups were on antidepressants and some not.

    The distinction between the groups is “the intervention group were also offered assistance from a physical activity facilitator.”

    Could some patients in each have responded to antidepressants and others didn’t?

    The data are not published with this study.

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