A study into whether physical activity alleviates the symptoms of depression has found there is no benefit.
Research published in the British Medical Journal suggests that adding a physical activity intervention to usual care did not reduce symptoms of depression more than usual care alone.
This contrasts with current clinical guidance which recommends exercise to help those suffering from the mental illness, which affects one in six adults in Britain at any one time.
I thought this was true and all - fuck yeah, randomised controlled trials!
i’m waiting for the study that proves that yoga at sunrise actually makes depression worse
I have been telling my endocrinologist this for years. I exercise! I’m still depressed! Yes, it helps things, but it’s not “as good as an anti-depressant” like he claims.
wow, I feel like less of a failure now
Oh, look, this study again. Uh, let me see if I can remember all the ways that it’s a /complete failure/. (And doesn’t conclusively indicate one way or the other, for that matter, whether physical activity has any impact on depression.)
The article! This is the actual findings/description of study/etc. The study did not involve introducing physical activity into the lives of people with depression. What they actually did was have a ‘physical activity facilitator’ have three face-to-face meetings with study participants, in combination with ten phone calls, over a one-year period. Their job was to motivate them to take advantage of locally available activities. Everything was self-reported — not only the symptoms of depression, because obviously that has to be self-reported — but also the physical activity itself.
I don’t know about you, but if I were supposed to have increased my physical activity? And I were depressed (oh, look, like I am right now)? I WOULD LIE. Because fuck that, a doctor/psychologist/exercise scientist telling me “you need to be more active, and oh, look, there are totally these activities locally, you should go check that out, wouldn’t that be fun?” That’s going to have about as much influence on what actually happens as… it does every other time someone tells me that shit while I’m depressed. And while, yes, we are all different and our depressions are all different, etc. etc., I don’t think you can tell me that my particular experiences with depression are so unique that I am a special snowflake who is the only person in the world who would react this way when faced with this situation. (Considering these are the same take-downs of the study that I was reading when it first happened, then. Nope, definitely not the only one.)
You know what’s actually going to happen? What I assume happened here:
Depressed people are going to lie.
They’re going to say, “Oh, uh, yeah, I totally did stuff. Yeah. See, I filled out this form, it totally said I did stuff. I took a walk! I left the house! That’s good, right?”
And then they’re going to feel guilty about lying about it, which is going to make them feel worse. OOPS.
The other side of this: exercise was ‘introduced’ (aahahahahaha) as an additional component to regular treatment for depression. But people react to ‘regular treatment’ in a variety of different ways and at a variety of different speeds. The study doesn’t have any comparison between an individual participants recovery with or without an increase in exercise; they’re being compared to other participants. Depression doesn’t work that way.
Participants in both groups were asked to continue to follow the healthcare advice of their general practitioner for their depression and were therefore free during the trial to access any treatment usually available in primary care, including the use of antidepressants, counselling, referral to “exercise on prescription” schemes, or secondary care mental health services. In addition to this usual care, participants allocated to the intervention group were also offered assistance from a physical activity facilitator.
Bolding mine. Let me summarise the relevant point here:
Both sides, both the participants in the group interacting with a ‘facilitator’ and the people who were strictly interacting with their GP, may have been exercising.
Let me repeat that.
BOTH SIDES MAY HAVE BEEN EXERCISING.
And that’s the really relevant point here. The study does absolutely nothing to indicate whether or not physical activity helps recovery from depression, because level of physical activity wasn’t controlled in either group. All it actually studied was whether or not your depression was affected by having someone call you ten times over the course of a year going, “YOU CAN DO IT!”
Oh, look, a convenient and popular recent takedown of fighting depression with positivity, and it’s right here. How convenient!
Remember: everyone’s body is different, everyone’s depression is different, some people do in fact respond well to physical activity as a component of recovery from/maintenance of depression. Depression itself inhibits one’s ability to perform physical activity. Fuck knows that I am sitting here, waiting for my brand new shiny meds to properly kick in, so that I can go out there and start doing more stuff again instead of lying around in bed all day.
But the next person who tells me, “Oh, you just need to exercise more, that’d fix you right up!” gets punched in the face. How’s that for an increase in physical activity?