Team sports may be superior to individual exercise in treating depression

Depression is one of the most common mental health illnesses in the UK. Although cognitive behavioural treatment is the recommended treatment for these disorders, recent research has suggested that exercise may be a possible treatment option specifically team sports.

Benefits of exercise

Exercise has been shows to be beneficial for the biological element of depression whereas team sports may impact the biological, cognitive and social aspects making it more effective for depression sufferers than simply exercise alone. Often people suffering with depression withdraw themselves from their friends and families. Team sports encourage socialisation and may help to break the avoidant cycle by providing a social support system. They may also help to keep someone engaged in sport as there is a sense of accountability to the team. Another benefit of using team sports as a treatment for depression is it is something a client can start doing straight away either whilst on a waiting list, or instead of. 

Limitations to using exercise as a treatment option

Although there are numerous benefits of using exercise as a treatment for mental health. It is important to note that for some people it may not be possible, for others it may not be effective and also, it may not be the sole treatment but used in combination. Depression may be comorbid with other conditions including physical conditions that may limit the exercise opportunities for an individual therefore not making it an effective treatment. Additionally, there is a cost involved including a team membership as well as petrol to get to training and games and kit that some may not be able to afford. Furthermore, for someone suffering with severe depression, just the idea of getting up and getting dressed can appear challenging let alone getting up, getting dressed and doing sport. However, for those suffering with more mild depression, exercise could be beneficial. For some, exercise may only be effective when used alongside other treatments such as CBT or medication.

To conclude, it seems that team sports may have an additional benefit in alleviating depression symptoms over exercise however we must bear in mind as with other therapies the limitations, to prevent sufferers feeling they should be able to “run away” their depressive symptoms.

This article was written by guest writer Emily Gulvin, Sports, Exercise and Mental Health Awareness Blogger