Background and objectives: Clinical depression affects millions of women annually. Exercise has been studied as a potential antidepressant, with most studies supporting its efficacy. Exercise also has the potential to reduce the risk for physical comorbidities that occur with depression. However, less is known about the types of exercise programs to which women with depressive symptoms will adhere. Our objectives were to (1) compare two exercise programs, varying in their degree of structure, on improvements in physical activity and (2) compare the two exercise interventions on depressive symptoms, body composition, and fitness.
Methods: Women with depressive symptoms (physician diagnosed and confirmed with the Beck Depression Inventory) residing in the greater Boston area were recruited for this 3-month intervention study. Continuous enrollment took place between November 2005 and November 2006. Women were randomly assigned to either a clinic-based or home-based exercise intervention, with assessments at baseline and 3-months.
Results: Participants (n=32) were predominantly minority (81.4%) and, at baseline, had moderate symptoms of depression (Beck Depression Inventory [BDI], mean=25.6, SD=9.3), and were sedentary (mean=35.8 min/week of moderate and vigorous activity, SD=31.4). Gain scores for depressive symptoms (clinic-based mean=-11.7, home-based mean=-9.7) and physical activity (clinic-based mean=65.4, home-based mean=39.0) indicate strong improvements across time. Intent-to-treat analyses on 3-month data show that both interventions were associated with improvements in time spent in physical activity and depressive symptoms. Neither intervention impacted body composition or fitness.
Conclusions: Both exercise programs were associated with reductions in depressive symptoms and increased physical activity participation, suggesting that even a home-based program can benefit women with depressive symptoms.