Managing Major Depressive Disorder

Depression and other mental health disorders are prevalent with 4 million Australians reporting having a mental health disorder in 2014. With 2.1 million people suffering from depression, you don’t have to go far to find someone who is trying to manage this chronic condition.

There are a variety of therapies aimed to help people with depression such as cognitive behaviour therapy, medication such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), other psychological interventions like mindfulness. Along with these therapies, exercise has shown to be beneficial in the management and treatment of depression.

How can exercise help?

  • Reduces stress hormones and releases endorphins
  • Improves energy levels
  • Combats sleep disturbance
  • Reduces systemic inflammation
  • Provides social interaction and support
  • Creates an opportunity for mastery of certain skills
  • Improves self-efficacy
  • Improves overall health and feelings of wellbeing

The list goes on. A landmark study by Singh et al. (2005) looked at progressive resistance training versus GP care alone (medication and counselling). They found that in 61% of the subjects who were randomised to high-intensity progressive resistance training (80% of 1 rep max) found a 50% reduction in depressive scores which was significantly higher than low-intensity progressive resistance training (20% of 1 rep max) and GP care alone. Interestingly, there seemed to be a dose-response relationship. This means the higher volume and intensity the greater the reduction in depressive symptoms.

It is important to note that all intervention groups had a reduction in their depressive scores, nonetheless, exercise should be encouraged when battling major depressive disorder. Remember to always seek advice from your GP before engaging in mental health treatments.

Taylor Downes

Accredited Exercise Physiologist

BSc/GradDipClinExPhys B.Ed. Human Movement (ESSAM, AEP)

Singh, N. A., Stavrinos, T. M., Scarbek, Y., Galambos, G., Liber, C., & Fiatarone Singh, M. A. (2005). A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 60(6), 768-776. doi:10.1093/gerona/60.6.768