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Efficacy of physical activity in the adjunctive treatment of major depressive disorders: preliminary results.

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Department of Public Health, University of Cagliari, Via Porcell 4, 09100 Cagliari, Italy.



No controlled trials have evaluated the long term efficacy of exercise activity to improve the treatment of patients with Major Depressive Disorders. The aim of the present study was to confirm the efficacy of the adjunctive physical activity in the treatment of major depressive disorders, with a long term follow up (8 months).


Trial with randomized naturalistic control. Patients selected from the clinical activity registries of the Psychiatric Unit of the University of Cagliari, Italy.


female, between 40 and 60 years, diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorders (DSM-IV TR) resistant to the ongoing treatment.


diagnosis of psychotic disorders; any contraindications to physical activity.30 patients (71.4% of the eligible) participated to the study.


10 randomized patients undergoing pharmacological treatment plus physical activity.


20 patients undergoing only pharmacological therapy.The following tools were collected from each patient by two different psychiatric physicians at baseline and 8 month after the beginning of exercise program: SCID-I, HAM-D, CGI (Clinical Global Impression), GAF.


The patients that made physical activity had their HAM-D, GAF and CGI score improved from T0 to T8, all differences were statistically significant. In the control group HAM-D, GAF and CGI scores do not show any statistically significant differences between T0 and T8.


Small sample size limited to female in adult age; control group was not subject to any structured rehabilitation activity or placebo so it was impossible to evaluate if the improvement was due to a non specific therapeutic effect associated with taking part in a social activity.


Physical activity seems a good adjunctive treatment in the long term management of patients with MDD. Randomized placebo controlled trials are needed to confirm the results.

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