Research published today has revealed that physical exercise does not alleviate the symptoms of depression. The results of the study, done over an eight-month period, were published in the British Medical Journal today. It involved 361 patients that were recently diagnosed with depression, and concluded that adding physical activity to a person's recovery didn't reduce any symptoms of depression.
The many headlines that have followed have, predictably, been overdramatic and misleading:
'Exercise 'no help for depression''
'Exercise Will Not Make You Happy'
Many articles have pointed out that these findings contradict the current NHS guidelines that encourage regular physical activity as having benefits to mental health. A single study, however, cannot dispel years of research proving the opposite.
Only an individual can make the decision as to whether or not exercise is helping their recovery. There’s no way that a single benefit of exercise can be honed in on and dismissed like this. The benefits of exercise are limitless.
For sufferers of mental health problems, exercise may not only provide a chemical-induced high – there is a sense of achievement and empowerment to be gained. The benefits of overcoming depression by doing something so freeing, yet, as simple as going for a jog cannot be measured in a study. Even if, over an eight-month period, participants' symptoms of depression didn't improve in this study – this doesn't mean that exercise didn't offer short-term benefits.
When it comes to all of the contradictions within health journalism, especially with mental health, sometimes it's best just to listen to our own bodies. The worst thing that could come of this news is that someone suffering with depression is discouraged from exercising as part of their treatment. Mental health problems are as personal as the recovery programme they require.