Just 30 Minutes of Brisk Walking Can Immediately Boost the Mood of Depressed Patients
By Liz Austin
AUSTIN, Texas - Just 30
minutes of brisk walking can immediately boost the mood of depressed
patients, giving them the same quick pick-me-up they may be seeking
from cigarettes, caffeine or binge eating, a small study found.
Researchers at the
University of Texas at Austin found that people suffering from
depression who walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes reported feeling
more vigorous and had a greater sense of psychological well-being for
up to an hour after completing the workout.
Those patients and another
group that sat quietly for 30 minutes both reported reductions in
negative feelings such as tension, depression, anger and fatigue.
But only the group that
exercised said they felt good after the session, according to the
study, published in the December issue of the journal, Medicine and
Science in Sports and Exercise.
Lead researcher John
Bartholomew said the study reinforces past research that has found
consistent exercise, along with medication and counseling, can help
people overcome depression.
However, Bartholomew's is among the first to show that exercise can have a positive effect right away.
"It's not something you
have to do for 10 weeks and it's not something you have to do at a high
intensity," said Bartholomew, an associate professor of kinesiology and
health education. "You should derive a benefit very early on in the
process, and hopefully that is the kind of thing that will motivate
them to continue to engage in the behavior."
The study, funded by Future
Search Trials, an Austin medical research company, involved 40 people
between the ages of 18 and 55. All were recently diagnosed with major
depressive disorder, were not taking antidepressants and did not
Twenty patients were
assigned to exercise for 30 minutes, while the others sat quietly for
the same amount of time. They were surveyed five minutes before the
session and five, 30 and 60 minutes afterward.
The positive mood effects
from walking were sizable, lifting their feelings of vigor to
near-normal levels, the study said. But the results were short-lived,
returning to pre-exercise levels within an hour.
While the study shows
depressed people who self-medicate with cigarettes, caffeine or food
binges could get similar positive feelings from exercising, experts
said it won't be easy to persuade them to replace bad habits with
walking or shooting hoops. It's hard enough to get healthy adults to
"For people who are
severely depressed, that may not be something I'm really going to hang
my hat on," said Dr. Erik Nelson, an assistant professor of clinical
psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
But for mildly to moderately depressed patients, exercise may lessen feelings of helplessness and isolation, he said.
"People shouldn't feel like
the only thing they can do is take their medicine and wait till they
feel better," Nelson said. "This kind of shows there are things you can
do to help yourself in the short term."