Combining meditation and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of depression, research shows.
The program, called mental and physical (MAP) training, consists of sessions of focused attention meditation plus exercise.
Researchers measured symptoms of depression in 52 people before and after they participated in MAP training, 22 of whom were depressed and 30 who were not. All participants received two 60-minute MAP sessions a week for eight weeks.
During the meditation portion of each session, participants sat in silence and focused their attention solely on their breath for 20 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of slow walking meditation during which they focused solely on the movement of their feet. The exercise portion of each session consisted of 30 minutes on a treadmill or stationary bike.
In people who were depressed, MAP training reduced depressive symptoms by approximately 40 percent. It specifically reduced rumination, a common feature of depression, in which people repetitively think about negative memories. MAP training also reduced depressive symptoms and rumination in people without depression, but to a lesser extent.
Jeff Bauer is a healthcare journalist with expertise in psychiatry. He has served as editor of Current Psychiatry, a leading peer-reviewed clinical journal for psychiatrists and other mental health practitioners, and as educational content director for the U.S. Psychiatric and Mental Health Congress, the nation’s leading independent mental health continuing education conference.