Exercise as it relates to Disease/The impact of intensive exercise on depression in young males

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This page was written as an assignment for the unit Health, Disease and Exercise at the University of Canberra. It is a critique of the article “Sweating away depression? The impact of intensive exercise on depression", by Ross Balchin, Jani Linde, Dee Blackhurst, HG Laurie Rauch and Georg Schönbächler.

1. What is the background to this research?[edit | edit source]

Depression is a common cause of morbidity and mortality all over the world. It is the most common psychiatric disorder and is thought to affect 121 million adults worldwide[1]. It was rated the forth leading cause of disease burden in 2000[2]. Depression is commonly treated with antidepressants and/or psychotherapy, although some people prefer alternative approaches to treatment such as exercise[3]. This paper discusses the four basic emotion command systems in the brain and how they may contribute to depression, as well as the theory that exercise can alleviate depressive symptoms. They also acknowledge the uncertainty around specifically how much, how intense and how frequent the exercise must be. A study is then conducted on 30 young males of a range of ages suffering from moderate depression to determine the type of exercise that proves to be most effective.

2. Where is the research from?[edit | edit source]

This research was derived from a range of papers and studies and studied by a range of professionals and institutions, namely;

Ross Balchin, neuropsychologist - Department of Psychology, University of Cape Town, South Africa Jani Linde - Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa Dee Blackhurst - Division of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa HG Laurie Rauch - Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa Georg Schönbächler - Neuropsychology Unit, Department of Neurology, University Hospital Zurich, Frauenklinikstrasse 26, CH-8091 Zurich, Switzerland

3. What kind of research was this?[edit | edit source]

This study was conducted as a three-armed perspective randomised control pilot study, a small study to begin the collection of data for larger study in the future.

4. What did the research involve?[edit | edit source]

The study involved monitoring 30 moderately depressed young males and how they responded to different levels of exercise over a six week period. The participants were aged between 18 and 42 years and the average age of the participants being was 25.4 years old and the average BMI was 26.9. The level of their depression was determined before the study by using an online major depression inventory (MDI) and confirmed by an interview by a psychologist using the Hamilton rating scale of depression (HAMD) and then again at the end of the study. None of the participants were receiving antidepressant therapy, therefore any improvements in their mental health were purely based on the effects of exercise. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three exercise groups; high intensity (9 participants), moderate intensity (11 participants) and then a control group (10 participants). Only 21 participants completed the study and 12 dropped out. Dropouts were not excluded from the data.

5. What were the basic results?[edit | edit source]

The primary results of this research found that of the 30 participants, 13 of them ended the study with no signs of depression, 13 had mild depression and four had moderate depression. Of the High intensity group, six finished with no depression, two improved to mild depression and one remained moderately depressed. Of the Moderate intensity group, six finished with no depression, four improved to mild and one remained moderate Of the control group, one participant ended the study with no depression, seven improved to mild depression and two stayed moderately depressed.

The participants in the high intensity level group showed the most improvement with the average HAM-D scores improving from 15.5 to 4.2, followed by the participants in the moderate group with average HAM-D scores improving from 16.2 to 5.7. The control group improved but not as much as the other two groups with average HAM-D scores going from 17.4 to 9.8.

6. What conclusions can we take from this research?[edit | edit source]

The results of the study found that high and moderate intensity had positive impact on improving the mental health of those suffering moderate depression.

7. Practical advice[edit | edit source]

This research shows that the level of Physical Activity is an individual is completing can have an effect on their mental health. It also shows that exercising at a high or moderate intensity can be used in a treatment plan for someone suffering from depression before more permanent, difficult or expensive measures need to be taken. Individuals who believe they are feeling depressed can seek help from an exercise professional such as a PT to begin an exercise program to attempt to improve their mental health or motivate themselves if they feel up to it. Joining a social sporting club or social sporting team would benefit someone suffering from depression as they get the benefits of the physical activity as well as the chance to socialise, make new friends and widen their support network. Team environments are often the most supportive.

8. Further information/resources[edit | edit source]

If someone is struggling with their mental health, it is always important to reach out and seek help. Some links to support services as well as social physical activity organisations

Beyond Blue


Urban Rec Canberra

Meetup Canberra

Social League

9. References[edit | edit source]

[4] [5]

  1. 1
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 1. Blake H. Physical Activity and Exercise in the Treatment of Depression. Front Psychiatry. 2012.
  5. 2. Mead G, Morley, W, Campbell, P, Grieg, CA, Mcmurdo, M & Lawlor DA Exercise for Depression. Cochrane Database of systematic reviews. 2009.