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Efficacy of Exercise in Reducing Depressive Symptoms across 5-HTTLPR Genotypes


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2010 - Volume 42 - Issue 11 - p 2141-2147
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181de7d51
Applied Sciences

Introduction: Exercise is effective in the alleviation of depressive symptoms and may have physiological effects similar to those of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). Recent research has identified the difference in treatment effects across genetic polymorphisms of the serotonin transporter polymorphic region (5-HTTLPR), in which the l allele has been associated with a better response to SSRI compared with the s allele. The purpose of the current research was to examine the antidepressant effects of exercise across 5-HTTLPR genotypes.

Methods: Participants, ages 18-23 yr, were randomly assigned to a 5-wk exercise intervention or a no-treatment control group. Participants completed the Beck Depression Inventory before and after the intervention and provided a saliva sample for DNA analysis.

Results: Exercise resulted in a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared with the control group. In addition, individuals with at least one l allele demonstrated greater reductions in depressive symptoms compared with ss individuals.

Conclusions: The effects of exercise on depressive symptoms appear to be moderated by 5-HTTLPR genotype, suggesting that the mechanisms responsible for the alleviation of depressive symptoms are similar for exercise and SSRI treatment. Furthermore, these findings suggest that 5-HTTLPR genotype should be a factor in determining the proper line of treatment for depression.

1University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY; 2Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ; and 3Translational Genomics Research Institute, Phoenix, AZ

Address for correspondence: Chad D. Rethorst, Ph.D., University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TX 75390-9119; E-mail:

Submitted for publication July 2009.

Accepted for publication March 2010.

©2010The American College of Sports Medicine