A leading health professional is calling on doctors to prescribe exercise rather than drugs for patients suffering from depression.
John Searle – chief medical officer of the Fitness Industry Association – says GPs need to be better educated about the benefits of personal trainers and fitness instructors who are available for free on the NHS.
Dr Searle told KOS Media: “It’s well-recognised that exercise has preventative effects in that if you do it regularly then depression is less likely to kick in when things go wrong. We don’t quite know why, but we do know exercise gives you a natural high and is a great stress-reliever.
“That’s one factor but the other important thing is that for mild to moderate depression, exercise is also an effective treatment and is now regarded as preferable to anti-depressant drugs.
“We’re not just talking about a stroll in the park. We’re talking about what we call moderate to vigorous exercise, where you need to be getting out of breath and doing it for at least 30 minutes a day.”
According to the FIA, a study of 1,158 middle-aged men who were followed for 10 years from 1989 found that regular exercise was linked to lower rates of depression and anxiety in men.
A separate report by the University of Bristol found that men who participate in any “heavy-intensity leisure-time activity” are less likely to suffer from depression anxiety compared to less active men.
Dr Searle said: “It’s entirely possible for doctors to refer patients to fitness instructors, by using exercise referral schemes for example. But there is huge room for improvement because there are not enough appropriately-trained instructors and surveys show that many doctors are still prescribing anti-depressants.”