Meditation and aerobic exercise together can help reduce depression, new research finds.
Targeting both the mind and the body — for twice a week over two months — was enough to reduce depression by 40%.
Dr Brandon Alderman, who led the study, said:
“We are excited by the findings because we saw such a meaningful improvement in both clinically depressed and non-depressed students.
It is the first time that both of these two behavioral therapies have been looked at together for dealing with depression.”
The eight-week study had 30 people who were mentally healthy and 22 who were suffering from major depression.
The training involved 30 minutes of focused attention meditation followed by 30 minutes of aerobic exercise.
All reported fewer depressive symptoms after exercising and meditating for two months.
They also reported thinking less about negative situations in their lives.
Professor Tracey Shors, who co-authored, the study said:
“Scientists have known for a while that both of these activities alone can help with depression.
But this study suggests that when done together, there is a striking improvement in depressive symptoms along with increases in synchronized brain activity.”
Researchers also gave the training to young mothers who had previously been homeless, but were now living at a shelter.
After the training their depression and anxiety levels dropped.
They also experienced more motivation and were better able to focus.
Dr Alderman said:
“We know these therapies can be practiced over a lifetime and that they will be effective in improving mental and cognitive health.
The good news is that this intervention can be practiced by anyone at any time and at no cost.”
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry (Alderman et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: c_liecht