Improving physical quality of life with group physical activity in the adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorder

Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2008 Jan 26;4:1. doi: 10.1186/1745-0179-4-1.


Background: The aim of the study was to compare the change in quality of life over 32 weeks in depressed women assuming antidepressant drug with (experimental group) or without (control group) physical exercise from a study which results on objective dimension of outcome were already published.

Methods: Trial with randomized naturalistic control. Patients selected from the clinical activity registries of a Psychiatric University Unit.

Inclusion criteria: female, between 40 and 60 years, diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorders (MMD, DSM-IV TR) resistant to ongoing treatment.

Exclusion criteria: diagnosis of psychotic disorders; any contraindications to physical activity. 30 patients (71.4% of the eligible) participated to the study.

Cases: 10 randomized patients undergoing pharmacological treatment plus physical activity.

Controls: 20 patients undergoing only pharmacological therapy. Quality of life was measured by means of WHOQOL-Bref.

Results: The patients that made physical activity had their WHOQOL-Bref physical score improved from T0 to T8, the differences was statistically significant. In the control group WHOQOL-Bref physical remains the same and, consequentially, the difference between T0 and T8 do not reach any statistical significance.The perceived quality of life in the other domains did not change during the treatment in both groups. Thus no other differences were found between and within groups.

Discussion and conclusion: The data presented in the previous paper found that physical activity seems a good adjunctive treatment in the long term management of patients with MDD. These new data indicated that physical activity may also improve the perceived physical quality of life. The dimensions related with social functioning, environment and psychical well being seem do not improved, unexpectedly, during the trial. Two objective dimension not strictly related to the depressive symptoms improved: social functioning and Clinical Global Impression, this discrepancy with a subjective and objective dimension of the well being may supported the Goldberg point of view that subjective quality of life in bipolar and unipolar severe depression patients may not accurately reflect objective functional outcome status, potentially due to diminished insight, demoralization, or altered life expectations over time. It may be that physical activity improve the self perception of physical well being. The physical domains of WHOQOL-Bref inquiry about conditions as sleep, pain, energy, body satisfaction that seems frequently problematic also in remission due to the pharmacotherapy and may be risk factor for relapse/recurrence. Thus physical therapy seems to determinate improvement in depressive aspects not frequently responsive to the drug treatment.