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May 2017
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At the University of Durham, North Carolina, a study was carried out on the use of physical activity to beat depression and it showed that physical exercise is not only as effective as medication, but that it can even be an alternative to medicine.

This study was conducted on 156 volunteers suffering from depression. The researchers divided the patients (who were all 50+) into three groups, of which:

  • one underwent a pharmaceutical regime
  • one did only physical exercise as treatment
  • one combined physical exercise with medication.

After four months, 75% of the volunteers of each group showed similar results: the depression was less strong, if not gone completely. At this point, medication was discontinued. Ten months later, the doctors examined the volunteers again and found that the volunteers who had been treated purely with physical exercise had the lowest rate of relapse into depression. However, this is not the only study that has proved this phenomenon: similar research was carried out at the University of Illinois, the University of Harvard and the University of California Berkeley School of Public Health.

A sad mood is the main symptom of depression but depression itself can be a normal reaction or a pathological state. The difference between feeling depressed and the mental illness called depression is that people suffering from depression are not able to get out of this state which they find themselves in on their own and their depression tends to aggravate them, preventing them from leading a normal life. Depression is categorised into two groups by psychiatrists:

  • reactive depression, which is determined by physical or emotional factors, like an illness or a death in the family;
  • endogenous depression, which is not related to any event in particular and is often hereditary.

The effects of physical activity

Physical exercise treats depression in five ways:

  1. it induces the body to release endorphins;
  2. it reduces the levels of cortisol in the blood, the hormone involved in stress and depression;
  3. it helps us to look at life in an optimistic way;
  4. it gives us a sense of satisfaction and helps to increase self-esteem;
  5. it increases levels of serotonin.

What type of physical activity should we do?
The answer is whatever you like! What is important though, is that you do it two or three times a week, or even every day. Walking, cycling, swimming, practising a sport and gardening are all recommended. You need to enjoy it and feel satisfied.

The most accessible and simple physical activity is walking!

Do you need to do physical exercise? How much? Fill in this form and you will find out!


Weight in kg

Calories/day kcal

...and what does it correspond to? See the examples below:

Time needed to consume the recommended calories

Calories/day kcal


Slow run (5mph)

Cycling (9mph)

Swimming (slow) free style


(in minutes)


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