Aerobic exercise in depressed youth: A feasibility and clinical outcomes pilot Academic Article uri icon

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  • AIM: Major depressive disorder (MDD) onset generally occurs in adolescence/early adulthood. However, pharmacotherapy use in younger populations is restricted due to black box warnings. Aerobic exercise may be a viable treatment option for mild-to-moderate MDD, but little is known about its acceptability/effectiveness in young adults. METHODS: Unmedicated and relatively inactive 18-to-24 olds with MDD completed fitness/clinical assessments at baseline and after 12 weeks of supervised aerobic exercise (3×/wk; 30-minute sessions in target heart rate [HR] zone), with the aim of increasing cardiovascular fitness (VO2max -indexed). RESULTS: Post-intervention, predicted VO2max increased, whereas depression scores decreased. A correlation existed between time spent in target HR zone and anxiety symptom decreases. Exercise adherence and satisfaction were high, and drop-out was minimal. CONCLUSIONS: This pilot is among the first to assess the feasibility of aerobic exercise as an antidepressant treatment strategy in young adults, a group for which options have limited acceptability.


  • Jaworska, Natalia
  • Courtright, Allegra K
  • De Somma, Elisea
  • MacQueen, Glenda
  • MacMaster, Frank P

publication date

  • February 2019