UBC Graduate Research

Exercise in the management of depression Kinney, Kirsten


Major depressive disorder (MDD) is often treated with psychological and/or pharmacological therapies. Unfortunately, not all participants respond to these therapies, and no single treatment plan is effective for every participant. There is an urgent need for additional and alternative therapies, such as exercise. The goal of this project was to systematically review the literature on the efficacy of exercise in the treatment of MDD and the necessary components of an effective exercise intervention. In addition, the literature review guided the development of a pilot program proposal for exercise in depression. The literature supports exercise as an effective primary therapy for mild to moderate MDD and as an effective adjuvant therapy for moderate to severe MDD. Specifically, exercise therapy is most effective when it is supervised and lead by an exercise-professional in a group setting; with 3-5 exercise sessions per week; a duration of 60 minutes per a session; a program length of at least 9 weeks; and containing a variety of exercises performed at a moderate to vigorous intensity. Unfortunately, there are no supervised exercise programs available or designed specifically for participants with MDD in British Columbia. This is a serious gap in the treatment of MDD, and prompted the development of a pilot program proposal for exercise in depression. If implemented, health care practitioners will be able to refer their participants with mild to moderate MDD to this pilot program, thus increasing the percentage of participants receiving effective care for MDD.

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