The study, carried out by teams from the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, is the first large-scale, randomised controlled trial to establish the effects of exercise on depression.

Previously most of the evidence for the positive effect of physical activity in treating depression has originated from studies of small, non-clinical samples using interventions that would not be practicable in an NHS setting.

Melanie Chalder, of the University of Bristol's School of Social and Community Medicine, said: ``Numerous studies have reported the positive effects of physical activity for people suffering with depression but our intervention was not an effective strategy for reducing symptoms.

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