London, Oct 8 (IANS): In terms of improving mental health, running for depression or anxiety and taking antidepressants showed similar benefits -- a 16-week course of running over the same period scored higher in terms of physical health improvement, whereas antidepressants led to a slightly worse physical condition, a new study has said.
The study published in the journal Affective Disorders recruited 141 patients with depression or anxiety. They were offered a choice of treatment -- SSRI antidepressants for 16 weeks or group-based running therapy for 16 weeks. Forty-five chose antidepressants, with 96 participating in running.
The antidepressant group took the SSRI Escitalopram for 16 weeks. The running group aimed for two to three closely supervised 45-minute group sessions per week (over 16 weeks).
At the end of the trial, around 44 per cent in both groups showed an improvement in depression and anxiety, however, the running group also showed improvements in weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, and heart function, whereas the antidepressant group showed a tendency towards a slight deterioration in these metabolic markers.
"Both interventions helped with the depression to around the same extent. Antidepressants generally had worse impact on body weight, heart rate variability and blood pressure, whereas running therapy led to improved effect on general fitness and heart rate for instance," said Brenda Penninx, professor at Amsterdam University Medical Centres (UMC), Netherlands.
While most people are compliant in taking antidepressants, around half of the running group adhered to the two-times-a-week exercise therapy, the study showed.
"These are very interesting results that again show that physical health can influence mental health and that treatment of depression and anxiety can be achieved by exercising, obviously without the adverse effects of antidepressant drugs. However, several remarks are important," said Dr Eric Ruhe, Amsterdam UMC.