Exercise Prescription

Exercise is structured physical activity with the goal of maintaining or improving physical fitness or health. Exercise is a highly effective, but often under-utilized treatment in the management of psychiatric disorders.

  • Exercise is thought to improve depression symptoms via reduction in cortisol levels, increased turnover of neurotransmitters, release of endorphins, and neurotrophic factors like brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
  • Antidepressants alone do not adequately treat many patients with depression.
    • Combining antidepressants with lifestyle changes, such as exercise is supported by well-designed studies.[4][5][6][7]
  • Animal studies indicates that exercise enhances brain development and overall behavioural functioning.
  • Studies in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder suggest that both short-term (≥20 minutes) and long-term (≥5 weeks) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity can improve ADHD symptoms and neuropsychological functioning.[8]
  • In general, exercise is well tolerated, with adverse events rarely reported.
  • Both cardiovascular (aerobic) and resistance (anaerobic) exercise reduce depressive symptoms, with no superiority of one over the other.
  • Population studies show that participation in physical activity may prevent the onset of depression.[10]
  • Recommendations for total exercise time vary according to different studies.
  • In the depression literature, at least 30 minutes of supervised, moderate-intensity exercise at least 3 times weekly for at least 9 weeks is recommended.
  • As with any physical interventions, the participant's physical fitness needs to be taken into account as well.