A recent BBC report entitled “Exercise ‘no help for depression,’ research suggests” is a bit of a comedy of errors on a number of different levels.
First, the BBC based its article on the press release for the journal article, not the research itself. This was not stated this in their column.
They then quote Dr. John Campbell, from the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry who makes very broad commentary regarding the efficacy of exercise in the treatment of depression based on this one study.
"Exercise and activity appeared to offer promise as one such treatment, but this carefully designed research study has shown that exercise does not appear to be effective in treating depression."
"The message of this study of course is not that exercise isn't good for you, exercise is very good for you, but it's not good for treating people with what was actually quite severe depression.
"That buzz we all get from moderate intensity of exercise is certainly acknowledged but it's not sustained and it's not appropriate for treating people with depression."
Here are some of the issues with the study:
- The exercise group was encouraged to exercise, but this was not a requirement
- At four months equal numbers of people from each group exercised
- In the end, the exercise groups’ output (total exercise) was only 15% higher than its counterpart
- The researchers did not include a group that exercised but was not taking anti- depressants
So what can we conclude from the study? Here is a suggested headline from Neurobonkers:
“Breaking News: Simply telling depressed people to “jog on” does not help relieve symptoms of depression (especially if they are already on anti-depressants).”
There has been a lot of research compiled over the years supporting exercise in the treatment of depression. Sensationalistic headlines such as this not only misinform the public, but in the end erode public confidence in the research process.
To read the full article from the BBC, click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-18335173
The actual article as published in BMJ: http://www.bmj.com/content/344/bmj.e2758
To read the full critique from Neurobonkers, click here: http://neurobonkers.com/2012/06/06/breaking-news-simply-telling-depressed-people-to-jog-on-does-not-help-relieve-symptoms-of-depression/
Jeff Ross, MA RCC
Jeff is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and sees clients in Vancouver (Yaletown) and North Vancouver, BC, Canada. He supports individuals with such issues as depression, anxiety, stress management, relationship issues, grief and bereavement, career and educational issues as well as growth and development. In addition he also does couples counselling / marriage counselling.
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