Aerobic Endurance Exercise Improves Executive Functions in Depressed Patients. [CME]
J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(9):1005-1012
© Copyright 2014 Physicians Postgraduate Press, Inc.
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Background: Aerobic endurance exercise has been
shown to improve higher cognitive functions such as executive
control in healthy subjects. We tested the hypothesis that a
30-minute individually customized endurance exercise program has
the potential to enhance executive functions in patients with
major depressive disorder.
Method: In a randomized within-subject study
design, 24 patients with DSM-IV major depressive disorder and 10
healthy control subjects performed 30 minutes of aerobic
endurance exercise at 2 different workload levels of 40% and 60%
of their predetermined individual 4-mmol/L lactic acid exercise
capacity. They were then tested with 4 standardized computerized
neuropsychological paradigms measuring executive control
functions: the task switch paradigm, flanker task, Stroop task,
and GoNogo task. Performance was measured by reaction time. Data
were gathered between fall 2000 and spring 2002.
Results: While there were no significant
exercise-dependent alterations in reaction time in the control
group, for depressive patients we observed a significant decrease
in mean reaction time for the congruent Stroop task condition at
the 60% energy level (p = .016), for the incongruent Stroop task
condition at the 40% energy level (p = .02), and for the GoNogo
task at both energy levels (40%, p = .025; 60%, p = .048). The
exercise procedures had no significant effect on reaction time in
the task switch paradigm or the flanker task.
Conclusion: A single 30-minute aerobic endurance
exercise program performed by depressed patients has positive
effects on executive control processes that appear to be
specifically subserved by the anterior cingulate.