Exercise and severe major depression: effect on symptom severity and quality of life at discharge in an inpatient cohort

J Psychiatr Res. 2015 Feb:61:25-32. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2014.11.005. Epub 2014 Nov 21.


Background: Exercise is a potential treatment for depression. However, few studies have evaluated the role of adjunct exercise in the treatment of severely major depressed inpatients. The goal of this study was to evaluate the effects of add-on exercise on the usual treatment of severely depressed inpatients.

Methods: Fifty participants were randomized to an exercise (exercise + usual treatment) or a control (usual treatment) group. Twenty-five patients were randomly allocated to each group. The participants in the exercise group performed three sessions per week throughout the hospitalization period, with a goal dose of 16.5 kcal/kg/week plus the usual pharmacological treatment. Depressive symptoms and the Quality of Life (QoL) of the participants were assessed at the baseline, the second week, and discharge.

Results: A significant group × time interaction was found for depressive symptoms and the physical and psychological domains of QoL. Differences between groups occurred at the second week and discharge with respect to depressive symptoms and the physical and psychological domains of QoL. There was no difference in the remission rate at discharge (48% and 32% for the exercise and control group, respectively). An NNT of 6.25 was found. No significant baseline characteristics predict remission at discharge.

Conclusion: Add-on exercise is an efficacious treatment for severely depressed inpatients, improving their depressive symptoms and QoL. Initial acceptance of exercise remains a challenge.

Keywords: Depression; Exercise; Quality of life.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / therapy*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome