There was a BMJ publication that came out on 6th June that prompted several headlines that suggested that “exercise doesn’t help depression”. But weeding out the study’s specific, detailed coverings to a media-friendly sound bite has resulted in the risk of people getting the wrong idea. The researchers, in fact, did not even make the test of exercise on people with depression.

Mixed Reviews

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This article will reveal what all the researchers did, the tests they ran and the increasing scrutiny that they faced afterward. It also proves the crucial need for a research to be done with more depth. There has, however, been a number of experts and doctors who suggest that exercise does help people with depression, who are also victims of obesity, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

What Did The Researchers Do?

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The BMJ study researchers hail from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. They were to uncover if adding a physical task/challenge with the “usual care” that patients with depression get through their general practitioners (GPs) in the UK, could maybe reduce the symptoms that they have or not.


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This intervention, TREAD (Treatment of Depression with physical activity), is actually based off on a theory, and offers a trained facilitator who then helps with “individually tailored support and encouragement to engage in physical activity”, say the researchers. This type of research benefits healthcare providers to come up with decisions about the kind of services that would be best in primary care.

Their Main Aim

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The people in charge of the researchers were hoping to test TREAD because even though there is proof to suggest exercise is advantageous to people having depression, it is usually from small, mild studies that examine programmes that the National Health Service (NHS) may not find practical to deliver.

TREAD Facilitators

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TREAD has been devised to “improve long-term adherence to physical activity”, and a key feature is making sure patients select activities of their choice, catering to their specific needs and the activities they can execute in their own environments. The patients then get a three-time face to face meeting with their facilitator. This person is trained in motivational interactive techniques with up to 10 telephone calls.

The Intervention

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In the BMJ study, this intervention went on for 6 to 8 months, where facilitators were hands-on for 4 months. It included 361 adult patients aged 18-69 who were diagnosed with depression at several different centers in the UK. One group got the usual care, and the other group was given the usual care plus TREAD. They were tracked for 12 months.