Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Recommended Exercise Also Curbs Depression

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Recommended Exercise Also Curbs Depression

Article excerpt

VANCOUVER, B.C. -- The amount of exercise that is recommended for general public health is also an effective treatment for depression, Andrea L. Dunn, Ph.D., reported at the annual meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society.

Despite many intervention studies suggesting that exercise alleviates symptoms of depression, it still isn't recognized in the same way as medication and psychotherapy as an efficacious treatment for depressive illness.

Indeed, only one previous study had met the standard, a 50% reduction in symptoms during the acute phase (6-12 weeks) of treatment (Arch. Intern. Med. 1999;159:2349-56).

But in that randomized trial, the exercise was done in a group setting, so the social support may have contributed to the 50% reduction in symptoms. "In order for exercise to be an accepted monotherapy for depression, we must clarify issues of dose response," noted Dr. Dunn, now a research scientist at Klein Buendel Inc., a communications firm in Golden, Colo., specializing in community health education.

So, in a National Institutes of Health-funded study she conducted with her former associates at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, 80 adults aged 20-45 years with mild to moderate depression were randomized to one of five aerobic exercise groups. In one group, 16 patients were assigned to a "low-dose" energy expenditure of 7 kcal/kg per week 3 days a week.

An additional 18 patients were assigned to the same low dose five times a week, while a "public health dose" of 17.5 kcal/kg per week was assigned three times a week to 17 patients and five times weekly to 16 patients.

The 13 controls performed stretching flexibility exercises for 15-20 minutes per day, three times a week (Am. J. Prev. Med. 2005;28:1-8). The 17.5-kcal/kg per week exercise condition is comparable with the public health guideline of 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times weekly, she said. The group was 75% women and 75% white, and the mean age was 35.9 years. They were not receiving antidepressant medication, and all of them were initially sedentary.

A total of 72 began the exercise treatment, while 53 completed all 12 weeks of individual, monitored sessions. Dropout rates were higher for the controls (8/13, or 62%) than for all the exercise groups combined (19/67, 28%), and did not differ among the four exercise groups.

Scores on the 17-item Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) dropped by a significant 47% from baseline among those receiving the public health dose and by a nonsignificant 30% among those in the low-dose group. …

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