After examining scores of previous studies, researchers now believe exercise may have positive mood benefits for people suffering chronic health conditions like cancer, heart disease and back pain.
In the new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, scientists sought to discover whether working out can help chronically ill people who haven’t been diagnosed with depression but may have similar symptoms.
Since depressive symptoms can make people less likely to take their medication, increase their use of health services and decrease their quality of life, Matthew Herring of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and his colleagues combed through 90 previous studies that included more than 10,000 people with health issues like cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), fibromyalgia, chronic pain or obesity.
In each study, people had been randomly chosen to do exercises — on average, three times a week over 42 weeks — or not.
Herring’s research showed that the people who were active saw a 22 percent reduction in depressive symptoms. “The magnitude of the effect of exercise training on depressive symptoms among patients found in our review is small but significant,” he told Reuters Health.
He added that at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise per week seemed to be most beneficial.
But since not everyone is physically capable of such activity and it’s not clear which exercise is best or how long the effects last, there are other remedies for the blues, too.
“I would suggest [people] indulge themselves in healthy pleasures: people, books, walks, sitting in a pretty place,” said Dr. Alan J. Gelenberg, who chairs the department of psychiatry at Penn State University in Hershey. “If they still feel ‘down,’ I’d suggest professional attention to consider psychotherapy or an antidepressant medicine.”