HomeMedicine By SpecialtyMental HealthRunning Therapy Group in fight against depression and anxiety

Running Therapy Group in fight against depression and anxiety

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Is exercising a useful form of treatment for depression and anxiety? A pilot research study out of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton (SJHH) and McMaster University aims to answer that question in teens and young adults with a running therapy group.

The study, based out of SJHH’s Mood Disorders Clinic and McMaster’s Departments of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neuroscience and Psychology Neuroscience and Behaviour, will monitor the effects of exercise on a patient group of 16-25 year-olds who suffer from depression and anxiety for a 12-week period. The group runs together twice weekly, with participants also adding their own independent runs. SJHH staff and community members also host an educational seminar weekly before one of the runs, helping to set a positive tone before participants set out on their run. Many of the researchers attached to the study have also participated as “running coaches”.

“This pilot study is a great opportunity to analyze the effects of exercise on symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even in memory function,” says Dr. Roberto Sassi, Psychiatrist, Mood Disorders Clinic, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and study co-lead. “Exercise is a powerful tool in treating mental health disorders. It’s a social activity, and exercise is also an incredible metaphor when dealing with your struggles – if you face a steep hill, and run up that hill; you have this amazing feeling of accomplishment in conquering it. The results of this study have huge potential in the future of treatment of anxiety and depression.”

“From planning to execution, this project has been a collaborative effort between our clinical and research teams,” says Dr. Margaret McKinnon, Psychologist, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, and study co-lead. “Mental illness involves such complexity that it takes the cohesive work of clinicians and researchers to find the best solution for the patient’s needs.”

Other organizations that have contributed their assistance in the running therapy group include Runners Den and Cameron Helps, an awareness and advocacy group for youth mental health and suicide. Preliminary results from the study will be released in November 2012.

St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton is the regional leader in mental health excellence, and is committed to eradicating stigma and promoting the fullest recovery for every person. Its excellence is based on quality of care provided to its patients, staff expertise, the innovative nature of its programs and the pioneering quality of its research.


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