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Psychiatry Res. 2017 Jun;252:270-276. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2017.03.012. Epub 2017 Mar 7.

Interleukin-6 and depressive symptom severity in response to physical exercise.

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Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Neurogenetics Unit, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden; Center for Molecular Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Ireland; Health Research Institute, University of Limerick, Ireland. Electronic address:
Department of Statistics, University of Padua, Padua, Italy.
Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Elevated IL-6 has been implicated in depression. The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise may be associated with its clinical efficacy for depression. We determined if serum IL-6 levels were altered by 12 weeks of physical exercise, and if IL-6 levels were associated with baseline depression severity and change in depression severity in response to exercise. Data from 116 adults (42.7±11.5y) with mild-to-moderate depression (Patient Health Questionnaire >9) who participated in the physical exercise arm of the Regassa RCT ( were analyzed. Participants were requested to complete three 60-min exercise sessions weekly for 12 weeks. Blood samples were provided at baseline and post-intervention following an overnight fast and were analyzed for serum levels of IL-6 using ELISA. IL-6 values were logarithm-transformed. Higher baseline serum IL-6 levels were significantly associated with reduced depression severity after exercise. Reduced IL-6 levels following exercise were significantly associated with parallel reductions in depression severity. These findings are consistent with a previously reported association between reduced serum IL-1β levels and reduced depression severity following 12 weeks of physical exercise in 105 depressed adults. Findings support associations between IL-6, depressive symptoms, and exercise response, and provide support for the plausible involvement of IL-6 in the antidepressive effect of exercise.


Cytokine; Depression; Exercise intervention; Inflammation; MADRS; Regassa

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