Past studies have shown that exercise can be effective in treating symptoms of depression on its own or combined with other treatments such as antidepressant drugs or psychotherapy. However, none of these studies have determined what variety or how much exercise is sufficient. Until now.

Major depression disorder (MDD), also known as clinical depression, is considered a diagnosed mental disorder that causes persistent bouts of sadness. Sad feelings can become so overwhelming that they impede individuals from peforming routine activities such as eating, sleeping, and working.

Research published in the May edition of the Journal of Psychiatric Practice was conducted with the intentions of formulating a detailed proposal for how to prescribe exercise to patients with MDD.

During randomized trials, authors Chad Rethorst, Ph.D. and Madhukar Trivedi, M.D. analyzed markers for type of exercise, intensity of workout, and the length of workout.

The research team's findings shed light on useful tips for using exercise as a treatment for depression:

-Aerobic exercise: Achieve a heart rate that is 50 to 85 percent higher than the participant's maximum heart rate.

-Resistance training: Work on upper and lower body workouts in each session with three sets of eight repetitions at 80 percent of the maximum weight that the person can lift.

-Time: Do three to five exercise sessions weekly, with 45 to 60 minutes for each session.

Rethorst and Trivedi also noted that symptoms of depression would most likely die down within four weeks of starting a workout regime, though 10 to 12 weeks is recommended for a happier response.

"Taken as a whole, these findings suggest that exercise doses below the current recommendations may still be beneficial for patients with MDD," the authors added.

Further review of this study is important considering how readily available and cheap exercise is compared to hospital visits and expensive designer drugs. The majority of people who suffer from depression come from poor economic backgrounds.

Drs. Rethorst and Trivedi are associated with the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas.

Rethorst C, Trivedi M. Exercise for patients with major depression -- What kind, how intense, how often? Journal of Psychiatric Practice. May 2013; 19:3. Accessed May 10, 2013.