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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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