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A randomised, controlled study on the effects of a short-term endurance training programme in patients with major depression


Objective: To evaluate the short-term effects of exercise in patients with major depression.

Design: Prospective, randomised, controlled study.

Setting: A university hospital.

Patients: A consecutive series of 38 inpatients with a major depression episode undergoing standard clinical antidepressant drug treatment.

Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to an exercise (walking, n = 20) or placebo (low-intensity stretching and relaxation exercises, n = 18) group. Training was carried out for 10 days.

Main outcome measurements: Severity of depression assessed with the Bech-Rafaelsen Melancholy Scale (BRMS) and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale (CES-D).

Results: After 10 days, reduction of depression scores in the exercise group was significantly larger than in the placebo group (BRMS: 36% v 18%; CES-D: 41% v 21%; p for both  = 0.01); the proportion of patients with a clinical response (reduction in the BRMS scores by more than six points) was also larger for the exercise group (65% v 22%, p<0.01).

Conclusions: Endurance exercise may help to achieve substantial improvement in the mood of selected patients with major depression in a short time.

  • BRMS, Bech-Rafaelsen Melancholy Scale
  • CES-D, Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale

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