Mental Health Foundation: More GPs back exercise for depression

GPs are increasingly likely to prescribe exercise alongside antidepressants for people with depression but availability remains a problem, according to a report from the Mental Health Foundation.

Less than half of GPs are able to refer patients with depression to an exercise therapy scheme, despite 61% of GPs believing in the effectiveness of a supervised exercise programme for mild or moderate depression, compared with 41% three years ago.

GPs have also noticed an increase in people asking if exercise might be a suitable treatment.

The Mental Health Foundation’s chief executive, Andrew McCulloch, said “Depression is a complex illness – it is important that GPs have a range of treatments to offer and that people with depression have a choice.”

The charity is working on research to examine and overcome the barriers which prevent exercise programmes being offered more widely. The findings, with a toolkit including practical advice on setting up schemes and staff training, will be published in early 2009.

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