Exercise or basic body awareness therapy as add-on treatment for major depression: a controlled study

J Affect Disord. 2014 Oct:168:98-106. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2014.06.049. Epub 2014 Jul 5.


Background: While physical exercise as adjunctive treatment for major depression has received considerable attention in recent years, the evidence is conflicting. This study evaluates the effects of two different add-on treatments: exercise and basic body awareness therapy.

Methods: Randomized controlled trial with two intervention groups and one control, including 62 adults on antidepressant medication, who fulfilled criteria for current major depression as determined by the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview. Interventions (10 weeks) were aerobic exercise or basic body awareness therapy (BBAT), compared to a single consultation with advice on physical activity. Primary outcome was depression severity, rated by a blinded assessor using the Montgomery Asberg Rating Scale (MADRS). Secondary outcomes were global function, cardiovascular fitness, self-rated depression, anxiety and body awareness.

Results: Improvements in MADRS score (mean change=-10.3, 95% CI (-13.5 to -7.1), p=0.038) and cardiovascular fitness (mean change=2.4ml oxygen/kg/min, 95% CI (1.5 to 3.3), p=0.017) were observed in the exercise group. Per-protocol analysis confirmed the effects of exercise, and indicated that BBAT has an effect on self-rated depression.

Limitations: The small sample size and the challenge of missing data. Participants׳ positive expectations regarding the exercise intervention need to be considered.

Conclusions: Exercise in a physical therapy setting seems to have effect on depression severity and fitness, in major depression. Our findings suggest that physical therapy can be a viable clinical strategy to inspire and guide persons with major depression to exercise. More research is needed to clarify the effects of basic body awareness therapy.

Keywords: Major depression; Person-centred care; Physical therapy; Randomized controlled trial.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Awareness*
  • Body Image / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / drug therapy
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Exercise / psychology
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Exercise Therapy / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antidepressive Agents