Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Resistance Exercise Training May Reduce Symptoms of Depression

Resistance exercise training appears to significantly reduce depressive symptoms among adults regardless of health status, the time spent exercising, or whether the training resulted in significant improvements in strength, according to a meta-analysis in JAMA Psychiatry. The best results were found among those with mild to moderate depression scores—as opposed to no depression—suggesting that resistance training should be considered as an adjuct treatment for depression. 

Brett R. Gordon, M.Sc., of the University of Limerick, Ireland, and colleagues performed a literature search for clinical trials in which individuals were randomly assigned to either a resistance exercise training intervention or a nonactive control condition and which included a validated self-report or clinician-rated measure of depressive symptoms assessed at baseline and at mid-intervention and/or post-intervention.

They identified 33 randomized, controlled trials (RCTs), including 1,877 participants (947 in the resistance exercise training group; 930 in the control group). The mean prescribed resistance exercise training program duration was 16 weeks. The frequency of resistance exercise training sessions ranged from two to seven days a week; the most common frequency was three days a week.

The meta-analysis revealed that resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms regardless of the age, sex, and health status of the participants or the features of the exercise program (including session duration, intensity, or frequency). Resistance exercise training appeared to have a greater effect on people with mild to moderate depression compared with those who did not have depression.

“The larger percentage reduction found from RCTs of participants with elevated depressive symptoms, coupled with the significant difference based on initial severity of depressive symptoms, suggests that RET [resistance exercise training] may be particularly helpful for reducing depressive symptoms in people with greater depressive symptoms,” Gordon and colleagues wrote.

Although the authors acknowledged several limitations of the meta-analysis and emphasized the need for studies comparing resistance exercise training with other therapies for depression, they noted, “The available empirical evidence supports RET as an alternative or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Minimal Exercise May Help Prevent Future Depression.”

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