(HealthDay News) – For patients with major depressive disorder (MDD), exercise is beneficial as monotherapy or as an adjunct therapy, according to a review published in the May issue of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice.

Chad D. Rethorst, PhD, and Madhukar H. Trivedi, MD, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, reviewed the evidence relating to the use of exercise in the treatment of MDD and provided evidence-based recommendations for prescribing exercise.

The researchers found that the evidence supports the use of exercise as monotherapy or as an adjunct therapy for patients with MDD. Based on an evidence review, the authors recommend the use of aerobic exercise for reducing the symptoms of depression and note that resistance training has positive effects. Exercise is recommended ≥3 times a week for 45–60 minutes. Patients should exercise at 50–85% of maximum heart rate for aerobic exercise and should complete a variety of upper and lower body exercises (three sets of eight repetitions at 80% of one repetition maximum) for resistance training. Patients may experience improvements in depressive symptoms in four weeks, but should continue to exercise for ≥10–12 weeks for maximum effect. To promote adherence to the exercise program, psychosocial strategies should be implemented.

“The evidence reviewed here supports the use of exercise as either an augmentation or stand-alone treatment for patients with MDD,” the authors write. “However, more high-quality research is needed to clarify the role of exercise in the treatment of MDD.”

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