Does Exercise Effectively Treat Depression?

Testing the clinical benefits of exercise is no small task. While placebos can be given in drug trials, there is no such equivalent for physical activity. A new study has raised controversy over its methods. 

What's the Latest Development?

A controversial study has emerged over whether exercise is an effective treatment for depression, prompting an examination into claims about how physical activity affects mental illnesses. At the heart of the controversy is the fact that testing the effects of exercise are quite difficult given the gold standard of medical trials, i.e. a controlled experiment in which subjects do not know whether they are receiving the actual treatment or a placebo. With exercise, it is difficult to have unbiased control subjects because, unlike swallowing a placebo, treatment involves very active participation.

What's the Big Idea?

In determining whether exercise is an effective way to treat depression, it may be more helpful to turn to meta analyses which take stock of multiple studies at once. The Cochrane collaboration, a not-for-profit organisation that creates systematic reviews of health studies, has conducted such an analysis, finding that "on the whole, exercise has been shown to have some benefits for those with depression, but when only the very best-designed studies were included, this effect was very small." Because exercise releases feel-good chemicals in the body known as endorphins, it is known to be a mood enhancer, but the complexities of clinical depression are not so easily resolved. 

Photo credit:

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Elizabeth Warren's plan to forgive student loan debt could lead to an economic boom

A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
  • The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
  • The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover how to trap mysterious dark matter

A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
  • Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
  • The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Keep reading Show less

Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on LGBT workplace discrimination

In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

(Photo by Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
  • The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
  • Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
Keep reading Show less