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Feasibility and Effect of Aerobic Exercise for Lowering Depressive Symptoms Among Individuals With Traumatic Brain Injury: A Pilot Study

Schwandt, Marika MSc, PT; Harris, Jocelyn E. PhD, OT; Thomas, Scott PhD; Keightley, Michelle PhD; Snaiderman, Abe MD, FRCP(C); Colantonio, Angela PhD, OT

Section Editor(s): Caplan, Bruce PhD, ABPP; Bogner, Jennifer PhD, ABPP

Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation: March/April 2012 - Volume 27 - Issue 2 - p 99–103
doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e31820e6858
Focus on Clinical Research and Practice, Part 1

Purpose: To establish the feasibility and effect of an aerobic exercise intervention on symptoms of depression among individuals with traumatic brain injury.

Design: A pre-post single group.

Participants: our community dwelling participants (>11 months postinjury) with residual physical impairment recruited from an outpatient clinic.

Intervention: 12-week aerobic exercise program.

Outcome Measures: The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression; aerobic capacity (cycle ergometer, heart rate at reference resistance, perceived exertion); Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and program perception (survey).

Analysis: Descriptive statistics to depict change in outcome measure scores. Answers from the survey were collated and presented as summary statements.

Results: All participants had fewer symptoms of depression, improved aerobic capacity and higher self esteem after the intervention. High satisfaction with the program was reported with no adverse effects.

Conclusion: The aerobic exercise program was feasible and effective for individuals with traumatic brain injury, leading to improved mood, cardiovascular fitness, and self-esteem. Future research is needed to determine the intensity, frequency, and duration required to reach and maintain improvement.

Graduate Program in Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Toronto (Ms Schwandt); Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Dr Harris); Faculty of Physical Education and Health, University of Toronto (Dr Thomas); Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto (Dr Keightley); Departments of Psychiatry and Medicine (PMR.), Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Dr Snaiderman); and Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, University of Toronto (Dr Colantonio), Ontario, Canada.

Corresponding Author: Angela Colantonio, PhD, OT, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto, 160-500 University Avenue, Toronto, ON M5G 1V7, Canada (

Funding for this study for AC was obtained from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (200903MOP), The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, and a grant from the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. Support for this study was given to MS from the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and a Fellowship from the Women's College Research Institute and to JEH in a CIHR Fellowship Award and a Strategic Training Fellowship in Health Care, Technology and Place (FRN: STP 53911). Authors do not have any conflicts to disclose.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.