• We are sorry, but NCBI web applications do not support your browser and may not function properly. More information
Logo of brjsmedBritish Journal of Sports MedicineCurrent TOCInstructions for authors
Br J Sports Med. Apr 2001; 35(2): 114–117.
PMCID: PMC1724301

Benefits from aerobic exercise in patients with major depression: a pilot study


Background—Several reports indicate that physical activity can reduce the severity of symptoms in depressed patients. Some data suggest that even a single exercise bout may result in a substantial mood improvement.

Objective—To evaluate the short term effects of a training programme on patients with moderate to severe major depression.

Methods—Twelve patients (mean (SD) age 49 (10) years; five men, seven women) with a major depressive episode according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Society of Psychiatry (DSM IV) criteria participated. The mean (SD) duration of the depressive episode was 35 (21) weeks (range 12–96). Training consisted of walking on a treadmill following an interval training pattern and was carried out for 30 minutes a day for 10 days.

Results—At the end of the training programme, there was a clinically relevant and statistically significant reduction in depression scores (Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression: before, 19.5 (3.3); after, 13 (5.5); p = 0.002. Self assessed intensity of symptoms: before, 23.2 (7); after, 17.7 (8.1); p = 0.006. Values are mean (SD)). Subjective and objective changes in depression scores correlated strongly (r = 0.66, p = 0.01).

Conclusions—Aerobic exercise can produce substantial improvement in mood in patients with major depressive disorders in a short time.

Key Words: affective disorders; depression; major depression; refractory depression; exercise

Full Text

The Full Text of this article is available as a PDF (135K).

Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Folkins CH. Effects of physical training on mood. J Clin Psychol. 1976 Apr;32(2):385–388. [PubMed]
  • Williams JM, Getty D. Effect of levels of exercise on psychological mood states, physical fitness, and plasma beta-endorphin. Percept Mot Skills. 1986 Dec;63(3):1099–1105. [PubMed]
  • McCann IL, Holmes DS. Influence of aerobic exercise on depression. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 May;46(5):1142–1147. [PubMed]
  • Stein PN, Motta RW. Effects of aerobic and nonaerobic exercise on depression and self-concept. Percept Mot Skills. 1992 Feb;74(1):79–89. [PubMed]
  • Martinsen EW, Hoffart A, Solberg O. Comparing aerobic with nonaerobic forms of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression: a randomized trial. Compr Psychiatry. 1989 Jul-Aug;30(4):324–331. [PubMed]
  • Martinsen EW, Medhus A, Sandvik L. Effects of aerobic exercise on depression: a controlled study. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985 Jul 13;291(6488):109–109. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • North TC, McCullagh P, Tran ZV. Effect of exercise on depression. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 1990;18:379–415. [PubMed]
  • Singh NA, Clements KM, Fiatarone MA. A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1997 Jan;52(1):M27–M35. [PubMed]
  • Doyne EJ, Ossip-Klein DJ, Bowman ED, Osborn KM, McDougall-Wilson IB, Neimeyer RA. Running versus weight lifting in the treatment of depression. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1987 Oct;55(5):748–754. [PubMed]
  • Dimeo F, Bertz H, Finke J, Fetscher S, Mertelsmann R, Keul J. An aerobic exercise program for patients with haematological malignancies after bone marrow transplantation. Bone Marrow Transplant. 1996 Dec;18(6):1157–1160. [PubMed]
  • Borg G. Perceived exertion as an indicator of somatic stress. Scand J Rehabil Med. 1970;2(2):92–98. [PubMed]
  • von Zerssen D, Strian F, Schwarz D. Evaluation of depressive states, especially in longitudinal studies. Mod Probl Pharmacopsychiatry. 1974;7(0):189–202. [PubMed]
  • Chaouloff F. Effects of acute physical exercise on central serotonergic systems. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1997 Jan;29(1):58–62. [PubMed]

Articles from British Journal of Sports Medicine are provided here courtesy of BMJ Group


Related citations in PubMed

See reviews...See all...

Cited by other articles in PMC

See all...


  • Cited in Books
    Cited in Books
    PubMed Central articles cited in books
  • MedGen
    Related information in MedGen
  • PubMed
    PubMed citations for these articles