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Exercise Reduces Depression in Adults with Rheumatic Conditions, Finds Study

Exercise Reduces Depression in AdultsRheumatic diseases are illnesses that can cause inflammation of the joints and swelling and pain in the adjoining structures. Reports suggest that about 50 million people in the United States have arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (AORD) leading to diminished mobility and quality of life, and in many cases, causing depressive symptoms. Now a new study reports that exercise can help reduce depression in adults with fibromyalgia or rheumatic ailments.

The study, conducted by researchers at West Virginia University, Morgantown and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Atlanta, found that depressive symptoms and other outcomes in adults with rheumatic diseases improved with exercise.

The study involved a total of 35 exercise groups and 29 control groups. They identified and studied 29 randomized, controlled trials involving 2,449 adults with either fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or systemic lupus erythematous (SLE), who had exercise interventions (aerobic, strength training, or both) lasting at least 4 weeks. Of the 29 studies, 14 were limited to women and 15 had both men and women.

The researchers studied exercise programs which varied in length, frequency, duration, and type:

  • length of training ranged from 4 weeks to 78 weeks
  • frequency of training ranged from one to nine times per week, and
  • duration of workouts ranged from 12 minutes to 83 minutes per session
  • 15 groups practiced aerobics
  • 5 groups strength training
  • 11 groups did both aerobics and strength training

The key findings of the study are as follows:

  • The groups that were assigned exercise showed a significant reduction in depression
  • Compared to groups that included men or men and women, it was found that the groups that had only women showed greater reductions in depressive symptoms with regular workouts
  • Besides depression, significant improvements were observed for other measures like physical function, quality of life, pain, aerobic fitness, anxiety and overall body strength.

The study, published in the Journal of Arthritis Research and Therapy, stress the importance of exercise and strength training in managing the symptoms of depression in people with AORD, as opposed to oral and topical analgesics.

A healthy diet combined with regular exercise improves joint flexibility and reduces stiffness, speeds up the healing of the damaged tendons and strengthens them to prevent future damage. Professional help is also at hand with established healthcare centers providing physical therapy programs and other options to help people of all ages manage pain related to musculoskeletal ailments.

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