Regular Exercise Fights Depression

Exercise may reduce depression in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions, states a systematic review conducted by researchers at West Virginia University, Morgantown, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta.

Given the improvement in reducing depression with exercise along with the lack of adverse events, “it would appear plausible to suggest that exercise might be a valuable addition to the treatment of adults with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions,” they wrote online in the Journal,  Arthritis Research and Therapy.

Arthritis Research and Therapy

Arthritis Research and Therapy

Twenty-nine randomized controlled trials were identified in which exercise interventions (aerobic, strength training, or both) lasting at least 4 weeks were used for 2,449 adults with either fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Of the 29 studies, 20 were patients with fibromyalgia, five suffering OA, and two with RA. Other studies combined the arthritis types. Patients suffered symptom duration ranging from 4.7 years to 24.0 years.

Fifteen studies included both males and females, while 14 studies were limited to women.

The exercise interventions studied varied considerably in frequency, duration, exercise regimen and intensity.  Fifteen of the exercise groups focused on aerobic exercise, five on strength training, and 11 on both. Overall, groups assigned to exercise had a statistically significant reduction in depressive symptoms. Further analysis revealed that studies that included only women showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms with exercise than studies with mixed genders.

Depression was not the only symptom to improve with exercise.

Improvements were also observed for several secondary outcome measures, including physical function, pain, quality-of-life, anxiety, aerobic fitness and upper and lower body strength.

Starting points for an exercise regimen would conform to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, which would include:

  • 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
  • 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous-intensity activity
  • muscle strengthening is recommended on 2 or more days per week
  • balance exercises at least 3 days per week.

Since exercise will not only help depression, but has other excellent health benefits, exercise is a preferred treatment over a pharmacological approach.


Thanks to Wayne Kuznar for his assistance with this article. 

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