Exercise could help combat depression

By Ellen Scholl U-Wire

AUSTIN, Texas – One 30-minute exercise session – which could be as simple as walking on a treadmill – boosts mood and elevates well-being, according to a recent study conducted by a University of Texas professor and two UT graduate students.

The study, which was a former graduate student’s thesis project, found that exercise could be the new weapon for fighting depression and elevating mood.

Forty participants, all diagnosed with depression, were split into two groups to test David Morrison’s theory that exercise helps alleviate their condition. Morrison is now the CEO of Future Search Trials, a medical research company he started.

John Bartholomew, a UT associate professor of kinesiology and health education who led the study, said the results illustrated that exercise can be a tool to help participants cope with depression in as little as one workout.

Previous studies showed it took anywhere from eight to 10 weeks to see a positive change, Bartholomew said.

“Our expectation was that exercise was going to provide a benefit for them,” Bartholomew said.

Exercise is normally considered beneficial and essential to being a healthy individual, he added.

During the experiment, participants in each group – the exercise group and the “quiet rest” group – would either walk on a treadmill or rest for 30 minutes.

After the allotted time, both groups exhibited a decrease in many negative emotions such as anger, tension and depression. However, it was only the exercise group that also showed a positive change in “well-being,” as well as elevated indexes for “vigor.”

“[Exercise] might even be better than anti-depressants,” said Ruthie Hedges, a kinesiology sophomore who had just finished working out at Gregory Gymnasium Sunday. “I definitely think that the results of the study seem logical; exercise definitely is a mood elevator.”

Joseph Ciccolo, a health education graduate student who also worked on the project, said he was not surprised exercise provided a mood boost but that the quiet rest group also experienced many positive results.

“The quiet rest group had such similar reductions in certain negative feeling areas – tension, anger, depression – as the exercise group. It provides us with evidence that being distracted from being depressed can be very beneficial for the individual,” said Ciccolo.

Ciccolo said he hopes that people will learn and take heed of the project’s findings.