Anxiety and depression are among the most common conditions cited by those seeking treatment with complementary and alternative therapies.

Researchers from The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, in Greenville, North Carolina reviewed the evidence.

Exercise + yoga

  • Effectiveness is superior to no-activity.
  • Effectiveness is comparable to established treatments (eg, cognitive behavior therapy, sertraline [Zoloft], imipramine [Imipramil, Tofranil, and others]).

High-energy exercise (weekly expenditure of at least 17.5 kcal/kg) and frequent aerobic exercise (at least 3 to 5 times per week)

  • Reduces symptoms of depression more than less frequent or lower-energy exercise.

Mindful meditation + exercise

  • Effective as adjunctive treatments for depressive disorders, although some studies were poorly designed and implemented.
  • For anxiety disorders, there have also been positive effects, but there are far less data on the effects of exercise on anxiety than for exercise on depression.

Tai chi, qigong, and meditation

  • Not shown to be effective as alternative treatments for depression and anxiety.

The bottom line?

The abstract includes no conclusion. However, most others who have reviewed the data in this field conclude that improved study design and protocol implementation is needed.

4/15/10 21:39 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.