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Exercise Treatment for Major Depression: Maintenance of Therapeutic Benefit at 10 Months

Babyak, Michael PhD; Blumenthal, James A. PhD; Herman, Steve PhD; Khatri, Parinda PhD; Doraiswamy, Murali MD; Moore, Kathleen PhD; Edward Craighead, W. PhD; Baldewicz, Teri T. PhD, and; Ranga Krishnan, K. MD

Original Articles

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the status of 156 adult volunteers with major depressive disorder (MDD) 6 months after completion of a study in which they were randomly assigned to a 4-month course of aerobic e-ercise, sertraline therapy, or a combination of e-ercise and sertraline.

Methods: The presence and severity of depression were assessed by clinical interview using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HRSD) and by self-report using the Beck Depression Inventory. Assessments were performed at baseline, after 4 months of treatment, and 6 months after treatment was concluded (ie, after 10 months).

Results: After 4 months patients in all three groups e-hibited significant improvement; the proportion of remitted participants (ie, those who no longer met diagnostic criteria for MDD and had an HRSD score <8) was comparable across the three treatment conditions. After 10 months, however, remitted subjects in the e-ercise group had significantly lower relapse rates (p = .01) than subjects in the medication group. Exercising on one’s own during the follow-up period was associated with a reduced probability of depression diagnosis at the end of that period (odds ratio = 0.49, p = .0009).

Conclusions: Among individuals with MDD, e-ercise therapy is feasible and is associated with significant therapeutic benefit, especially if e-ercise is continued over time.

From the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC.

Address reprint requests to: James A. Blumenthal, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Box 3119, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710. Email: blume003@mc.duke.edu

Received for publication July 22, 1999; revision received March 10, 2000.

Copyright © 2000 by American Psychosomatic Society
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