May 14, 2018
2 min read

Resistance exercise training reduces depressive symptoms

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Study findings published in JAMA Psychiatry demonstrated that resistance exercise training significantly cut depressive symptoms in adults regardless of health status, total prescribed volume of the exercise or improvements in strength.

Exercise interventions are promising treatments for depressive symptoms, and these interventions are free from the adverse effects and high costs associated with antidepressant medications and psychotherapy,” Brett R. Gordon, MSc, department of physical education and sport sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland, and colleagues wrote. “There is a need to identify potential sources of variability in the antidepressant effect of [resistance exercise training], particularly modifiable participant and trial characteristics, to better inform the prescription of [resistance exercise training] and future [resistance exercise training] interventions.”

Researchers completed a meta-analysis and meta-regression analysis of randomized clinical trials identified using clinical databases to determine the relationship between efficacy of resistance exercise training and depressive symptoms. They included randomized clinical trials that used validated measures of depressive symptoms examined at baseline and midintervention and/or postintervention where participants received resistance exercise training (n = 947) or were allocated to a nonactive control group (n = 930).

Gordon and colleagues selected four primary moderators to determine variation in effect size: total volume of prescribed resistance exercise training, whether participants were healthy, whether allocation and/or assessment were blinded and whether the exercise intervention resulted in an improvement in strength.

The investigators derived 54 effects from 33 randomized clinical trials that included 1877 participants. Analysis showed that resistance exercise training was linked to a notable drop in depressive symptoms with a moderate-sized mean effect of 0.66 (95% CI, 0.48-0.83). Furthermore, the results indicated significant heterogeneity (I2 = 76%; 95% CI, 72.7-79), with sampling error accounting for 32.9% of the observed variance.

When examining data on the four primary moderators, the researchers found that there were no significant associations between antidepressant effect of resistance exercise training and total volume of prescribed exercise, participants’ health status and improvements in strength; however, randomized trials with blinded allocation/assessment saw smaller reductions in depressive symptoms.

“The available empirical evidence supports [resistance exercise training] as an alternative or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms,” Gordon and colleagues wrote. “Future trials should include thorough reporting of trial and [resistance exercise training] design, specifically blinded allocation, assessment, and adherence. In addition, future trials should compare [resistance exercise training] with other empirically supported therapies for depressive symptoms.” – by Savannah Demko

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.