Exercise can help reduce depression in people with chronic illness, says new systematic review


There is a growing pool of research that looks into the impact that exercise can have on depression, but this systematic review and meta-analysis claims to be the first summary of trials into the effects of exercise training on depressive symptoms among patients with a chronic illness.

The research team from the University of Alabama conducted a thorough search and identified 90 trials involving 10,534 sedentary patients with a chronic illness. Their included trials that:

  • Randomised patients to exercise or a non-exercise comparison group
  • Assessed depression outcomes before during and after the intervention

The review reported that depression in chronic illness is reduced by exercise in patients who are most depressed and who stick to the regimen.

The reviewers concluded:

Exercise reduces depressive symptoms among patients with a chronic illness. Patients with depressive symptoms indicative of mild-to-moderate depression and for whom exercise training improves function-related outcomes achieve the largest antidepressant effects.

Herring MP, Puetz TW, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK. Effect of Exercise Training on Depressive Symptoms Among Patients With a Chronic Illness: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jan 23;172(2):101-11. [PubMed abstract]

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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