Background: Although exercise has been shown to relieve depression, little is known about its mechanism or dose-response characteristics. We hypothesized that high intensity progressive resistance training (PRT) would be more effective than either low intensity PRT or standard care by a general practitioner (GP) in depressed elderly persons, and that high intensity PRT would provide superior benefits in quality of life, sleep quality, and self-efficacy.
Methods: Sixty community-dwelling adults >60 years with major or minor depression were randomized to supervised high intensity PRT (80% maximum load) or low intensity PRT (20% maximum load) 3 days per week for 8 weeks, or GP care.
Results: A 50% reduction in the Hamilton Rating Scale of Depression score was achieved in 61% of the high intensity, 29% of the low intensity, and 21% of the GP care group (p =.03). Strength gain was directly associated with reduction in depressive symptoms (r = 0.40, p =.004), as was baseline social support network type (F = 3.52, p =.015), whereas personality type, self-efficacy, and locus of control were unrelated to the antidepressant effect. Vitality quality-of-life scale improved more in the high intensity group than in the others (p =.04). Sleep quality improved significantly in all participants (p <.0001), with the greatest relative change in high intensity PRT (p =.05).
Conclusions: High intensity PRT is more effective than is low intensity PRT or GP care for the treatment of older depressed patients.