Impact of exercise on patients with depression and anxiety

Nord J Psychiatry. 2010 May 4;64(3):210-7. doi: 10.3109/08039480903511373.


Background: Persons with common mental disorders are at risk of lowered physical activity.

Aims: To investigate if patients with depressive and/or anxiety disorders can achieve a level of physical activity meeting public health recommendations, increase their physical fitness and quality of life (QoL) through participation in a physical exercise programme.

Methods: In a non-blinded controlled study, 48 patients referred by private psychiatric clinics and private general practices were either treated in an intervention (n=27) or a control group (n=21). The intervention group took part in 20 weeks of group exercise consisting of aerobic training and non-aerobic weight-lifting. All participants were interviewed and tested at baseline, week 20 and at week 32.

Results: The intervention group increased in physical activity (120 min/week) and VO(2)max (0.48 ml O(2)/min). The VO(2)max increase was maintained after a 12-week follow-up period. Findings should be conservatively interpreted because of high attrition rate.

Conclusions: Patients with anxiety and/or depressive disorders who participated in a structured, supervised exercise programme achieved in accordance with public health recommendations a higher level of physical activity and VO(2)max.

Clinical implications: The clinical implications of the study may be a suggestion of offering physical exercise to milder and moderate severe cases of depression and anxiety.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Patient Dropouts / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Personality Inventory / statistics & numerical data
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Physical Fitness
  • Psychometrics
  • Recurrence
  • Young Adult


  • Oxygen