The simple act of walking may be a "promising treatment for depression," researchers in Scotland have found. While physical activity has long been shown to help treat depression, it hasn't been as clear if lighter physical activity can also help, according to the report.
Scientists from the University of Stirling conducted a review of studies on walking and depression, and found eight studies so far that suggest the important role walking may play in mental health, BBC News reported. The eight studies looked at a total of 341 patients.
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The report foud that "walking has a statistically significant, large effect on the symptoms of depression in some populations." The researchers said that its still not clear exactly how much walking would be necessary to treat the common mental health problem, but added that "walking has the advantages of being easily undertaken by most people."
And walking obviously doesn't come with the same side effects that drugs can.
The news comes as researchers are debating whether pregnant women should take antidepressant drugs. Recent studies link prenatal exposure to the drugs to autism and high blood pressure, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Medications are never tested in pregnant women before they come on the market,” Dr. Anick Bérard told the Globe and Mail. “When a drug is marketed, we have zero clinical data on how it’s going to behave in pregnant women.”
And in 2004, the United States Food and Drug Administration came under fire for withholding information that linked antidepressant drugs to an increased risk of suicide in children, the Washington Post reported at the time.
Depression drugs may also cause more falls in elderly patients, the BBC reported in January.
"The beauty of walking is that everybody does it," Adrian Taylor, a professor who studies depression, told the BBC.