This site is intended for health professionals only

Rise in GPs prescribing exercise for depression

The number of GPs prescribing exercise for people with mild-to-moderate depression has risen significantly in the past three years, a survey shows.

The Mental Health Foundation say that 22% of GPs now prescribe exercise therapy as one of their three most common treatments for depression compared with only 5% three years ago.

The Foundation believe these figures show a change in health professionals views of exercise therapy.

Almost two thirds of GPs now believe a supervised programme of exercise to be “very effective” or “quite effective” in treating mild-to-moderate depression.

Two thirds of GPs who do not currently have access to an exercise referral scheme would use one if it were available.

The Mental Health Foundation warn that despite growing interest in exercise therapy, less than half of GPs are able to exercise are referral scheme for people with depression.

Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation Andrew McCulloch said: “It is excellent news that GPs are now turning to exercise therapy to help people with depression.

“There is a real need for increased availability of exercise on prescription so that it is accessible alongside antidepressant medication and psychological therapies.

“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.”

Mental Health Foundation