COPENHAGEN, Denmark ― Adding aerobic exercise to multimodal antidepressant therapy appears to improve cognitive function in clinically depressed inpatients, new research suggests.
Investigators led by Christian Imboden, MD, Psychiatric Services Solothurn, in Switzerland, found that 6 weeks of exercise three times a week significantly improved scores on a measure of working memory for patients enrolled in a control stretching program, although there was no additional impact on symptom severity.
The team said regular aerobic exercise as an add-on to multimodal antidepressant therapy “may contribute to an improved course of cognitive symptoms among clinically depressed patients.”
Although exercise did not affect symptom severity, they believe that “this may be due to ceiling effects caused by an already highly effective multimodal treatment regime.”
The findings were presented here as a poster at the 13th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry.
Little Data on Cognitive Function
Although there have been studies on the effects of aerobic exercise on symptom severity in patients with mild to moderate depression, there is a general lack of data on the effect of exercise on cognitive function in patients with depression.
To investigate further, the team studied inpatients who had been diagnosed with depression and who had a score greater than 16 on the Hamilton Depression Scale (HDRS-17). The patients were randomly assigned to either endurance exercise or a standardized stretching and coordination program.