Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.
Psychosomatic Medicine (Impact Factor: 3.47). 09/2000; 62(5):633-8. DOI: 10.1097/00006842-200009000-00006
Source: PubMed


The purpose of this study was to assess the status of 156 adult volunteers with major depressive disorder (MDD) 6 months after completion of a study in which they were randomly assigned to a 4-month course of aerobic exercise, sertraline therapy, or a combination of exercise and sertraline.
The presence and severity of depression were assessed by clinical interview using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) and by self-report using the Beck Depression Inventory. Assessments were performed at baseline, after 4 months of treatment, and 6 months after treatment was concluded (ie, after 10 months).
After 4 months patients in all three groups exhibited significant improvement; the proportion of remitted participants (ie, those who no longer met diagnostic criteria for MDD and had an HRSD score <8) was comparable across the three treatment conditions. After 10 months, however, remitted subjects in the exercise group had significantly lower relapse rates (p = .01) than subjects in the medication group. Exercising on one's own during the follow-up period was associated with a reduced probability of depression diagnosis at the end of that period (odds ratio = 0.49, p = .0009).
Among individuals with MDD, exercise therapy is feasible and is associated with significant therapeutic benefit, especially if exercise is continued over time.

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Available from: James Blumenthal, Oct 28, 2015
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    • "However, there is evidence that this positive relationship is more robust in patients with a diagnosis of major depression (Conn, 2010). A program of supervised exercise in clinically depressed participants may have the same beneficial effects as psychotropic medication, with a better prognosis at a 6 months follow-up assessment (Blumenthal et al., 1999; Babyak et al., 2000). There is also evidence that mood may improve rapidly after only a single session of exercise, as compared to psychotropic medication, for which 40% of patients fail to respond, even after fourth-line therapy (Wade et al., 2014). "
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    • "When it comes to mental health, the benefits of exercise cannot be overemphasized. A clinical study conducted by Babyak et al. [3] has revealed that treating depression with exercise was just as effective as medication, and vice versa. According to center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 1 , regular physical activity helps improve the overall health and fitness, and reduces the risk for many chronic diseases [4]. "

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