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Running may be as effective as traditional antidepressant therapies for reducing symptoms of depression.

A new study found that running was as effective as traditional antidepressant drugs at reducing symptoms of depression. In addition, people who ran had better physical health than those who did not.

The study involved 141 people with depression. Participants chose which 16-week therapy intervention they preferred: running at least twice a week with a group (96 participants) or taking traditional antidepressant medication (45 participants). They underwent mental and physical health assessments before and after the interventions.

The two therapies were comparable in terms of reducing depressive symptoms. However, running therapy improved many aspects of the participants' health, including body weight, waist size, blood pressure, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

Nearly 25 million adults living in the United States take some form of antidepressant medication. Most antidepressants work by altering the brain’s chemistry to affect mood. Side effects of the drugs include nausea, weight gain, decreased libido, and anxiety, among others. Evidence suggests that antidepressants are only about 20 to 30 percent more effective at reducing symptoms of depression than placebo treatments.

Exercise boosts the production of molecules that enhance mood and promote mental health. Learn more about the mental health effects of exercise in this video featuring Dr. Rhonda Patrick.

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