Send to

Choose Destination
Cogn Behav Ther. 2015;44(4):328-40. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2015.1016448. Epub 2015 Mar 4.

A Pilot Test of the Additive Benefits of Physical Exercise to CBT for OCD.

Author information

a Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre , 2075 Bayview Ave., Toronto , Ontario , Canada M4N 3M5.


The majority of "responders" to first-line cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and pharmacological treatments for obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are left with residual symptoms that are clinically relevant and disabling. Therefore, there is pressing need for widely accessible efficacious alternative and/or adjunctive treatments for OCD. Accumulating evidence suggests that physical exercise may be one such intervention in the mood and anxiety disorders broadly, although we are aware of only two positive small-scale pilot studies that have tested its clinical benefits in OCD. This pilot study aimed to test the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of adding a structured physical exercise programme to CBT for OCD. A standard CBT group was delivered concurrently with a 12-week customized exercise programme to 11 participants. The exercise regimen was individualized for each participant based on peak heart rate measured using an incremental maximal exercise test. Reports of exercise adherence across the 12-week regimen exceeded 80%. A paired-samples t-test indicated very large treatment effects in Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale scores from pre- to post-treatment in CBT group cohorts led by expert CBT OCD specialists (d = 2.55) and junior CBT clinician non-OCD specialists (d = 2.12). These treatment effects are very large and exceed effects typically observed with individual and group-based CBT for OCD based on leading meta-analytic reviews, as well as previously obtained treatment effects for CBT using the same recruitment protocol without exercise. As such, this pilot work demonstrates the feasibility and significant potential clinical utility of a 12-week aerobic exercise programme delivered in conjunction with CBT for OCD.


cognition; cognitive-behavioural therapy; exercise; obsessive-compulsive disorder; outcome

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center