Heart Health

01 August 2012

Exercise may ease depression in heart failure

People with heart failure who are also depressed may benefit from regular, moderate exercise.


People with heart failure who are also depressed may benefit from regular, moderate exercise, a new study suggests.

Patients who exercised an hour and a half to two hours per week had slightly lower depression scores, which in turn were tied to a reduced risk of re-hospitalisations and deaths related to heart problems. Still, the effects of exercise were modest, researchers said.

"We know that in people who have existing heart disease, including heart failure, that if they have depression on top of it, it tends to make matters worse," said Dr Kenneth Freedland, a psychiatrist from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who wasn't involved in the new study.

"Exercise seems to be helpful but by itself, it's probably not a sufficient treatment for clinical depression in somebody with heart failure," he said. Still, Dr Freeland added, "anything that can make a dent in (depression) is a good thing."

Effects of exercise in heart failure patients

The new findings are based on a secondary analysis of data from the HF-ACTION study, which looked at the effects of exercise in patients with heart failure.

In 2003 through 2007, researchers randomly assigned 2 300 people with heart failure to an exercise program or to their usual treatment. Participants in the exercise group had three supervised 30-minute workout sessions per week for three months, then were given a treadmill or stationary bike to continue exercising at home for another nine months.

About 28% of the patients were clinically depressed at the start of the study, based on a questionnaire covering 21 different symptoms.

Depression scores in general - and especially in people with a depression diagnosis - tended to drop with exercise. But the disparity between exercisers and non-exercisers was small, equal to participants scoring similarly on 20 out of 21 symptoms and exercisers getting a "mild" score on one symptom where the usual care group got a "moderate" or "severe" score.

"Most of the patients were not depressed," said lead researcher Dr James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University Medical Centre in Durham. "To go from being not depressed to a little bit more not depressed may not be that clinically meaningful."

Over an average of two and a half years, close to 1 200 study participants were hospitalised and 386 died. Exercise was tied to a lower risk of both hospitalisation and death, according to findings published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In addition, people who got less depressed during the study were less likely to have heart problems, whereas those who had worsening depression symptoms also did worse heart-wise.

"We don't know if worsening depression is a cause of worsening heart failure or a consequence of worsening heart failure," Dr Blumenthal said.

Both could be true, according to Dr Freedland.

"Depression has a lot of bad effects for people with heart disease and of course having heart disease can cause a lot of stress and distress. It's kind of a vicious circle," he said.

(Reuters Health, August 2012)

Read More:

How depressed people use internet

Exercise good for breast cancer patients


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Ask the Expert

Honey Morgan

Honey is a Life Coach, NLP Practitioner, Energy ReSourcing™ & Ericksonian Hypnotherapy Practitioner who has been practicing for over a decade. Personally, Honey is actively involved in the BDSM community and takes the role of a submissive or slave. She also spent 7 years as an exotic dancer. Her specialised coaching focus on sex & relationships, as well as spiritual journeys, is the result of a burning passion to help women (and men!) have fulfilling long-term relationships & healthy sex lives. She is also dedicated to helping couples and individuals find the bond, connection & love we all so desperately yearn for in our souls. Honey is one of the founders and creators behind www.sexandhoney.com and www.my-coach-online.com, two innovative online coaching platforms designed to put real coaching resources into the hands of people who need them most… at a fraction of the cost of traditional coaching and counseling.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules