Exercise and severe depression: preliminary results of an add-on study

J Affect Disord. 2011 Oct;133(3):615-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2011.04.030. Epub 2011 May 25.


Background: Physical exercise has been extensively researched as a therapeutic option for treatment of major depression.

Methods: In a randomized controlled trial, we analyze the effects of aerobic physical exercise as an add-on strategy for treatment of severe depressed inpatients. The exercise has a "Dose" of 16.5 kcal/kg/week, three times a week during all the hospitalization.

Results: Our preliminary results show that there is no significant difference in scores of Hamilton in the second week between groups (Mean[SD]=8.2[5.96] × 11.18[5.03], p=0.192). However, there is a significant reduction in Hamilton scores of patients in exercise group at discharge (Mean[SD]=5.93[4.46] × 9.45[3.56], p=0.041). Regarding Quality of Life (QoL), no significant difference were found between groups in the second week in physical domain (Mean[SD]=56.98[8.96] × 54.54[9.18], p=0.511) and psychological domain (Mean[SD]=50.88[13.88] × 42.04[12.42], p=0.106). However, there is a significant difference in psychological domain (Mean[SD]=55.88[9.92] v 41.66[13.04], p=0.004) and a trend but no statistical significance in the physical (Mean[SD]=58.80[9.14] × 52.12[8.70], p=0.07) at discharge.

Limitations: Many patients receive different treatment strategies, like ECT (1 patient at exercise group × 3 at control group). Other limitation is the small number of participants included until this moment.

Conclusion: Our preliminary results suggest that physical exercise could be a feasible and effective add-on strategy for treatment of severe depressed inpatients, improving their depressive symptoms and QoL.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depression / therapy
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy
  • Energy Intake
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Treatment Outcome