Evidence based medical wellness for active people from a doc who walks the walk

An Exercise Prescription for Depression


You know I believe that exercise helps almost all maladies, and it definitely falls in to my “it certainly isn’t harmful” doctrine.  But there is great proof that exercise can be helpful for depression, and can be useful with and with out medications to treat depression. It also amazes me that insurance will pay hundreds of dollars for prescription medications, but not for gym memberships. But enough this is not a rant about insurance!  Instead, let’s look at the facts, and develop a plan as to how much exercise is needed.

Nearly 10% of Americans will have depression at any given time, with women more likely to suffer from depression. The rate of depression in the United States is not improving, (same with Canada.) Interestingly, the more time people spend watching television, or on the computer, the more likely they are to suffer depression.  It may be because more screen time = less exercise! Multitudes of studies have shown that exercise improves depression! For the grand daddy of ’em all, click here to read a scientific summary of the data.

So what is the exercise prescription?

  • Type: Aerobic exercise
  • Frequency: 3- 5 times per week
  • Intensity: 40-85% of maximum heart rate. (Higher intensity improved depression the most.)

Caveat: anything is better than nothing!  Start by walking up the stairs, around the block, or with a friend.  To be cliche, Just Do It!

Excellent reference: Scientific American Mind, January/February 2017.


For more information, check out the Jan/Feb 2017 edition of Scientific American Mind

Author: PookieMD

I am a board certified internal medicine physician. I love medicine and seek to bring evidence based medicine to the fitness and wellness world.

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