Campus News

Study: Exercise can help during chronic illness

Suffering from a chronic illness can drain a person’s quality of life, but add in depression and the results are debilitating. A new study from UGA researchers shows that exercise training can reduce depression symptoms in patients with a chronic illness.

In a study published in a recent edition of Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed the results of 90 randomized controlled trials involving more than 10,500 sedentary patients with a chronic illness. The study did not focus on patients diagnosed with depression.

The patients typically participated in strength or aerobic exercise training for 17 weeks, with three sessions per week, 42 minutes per session. The reduction in symptoms was significantly larger in patients who performed moderate to vigorous physical activity as recommended.

The study builds on the researchers’ findings published in Archives of Internal Medicine in February 2010 that regular exercise reduces patient anxiety by 20 percent.

“Our findings are important because millions of Americans suffer from a chronic medical condition, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancers, obesity, pain and fatigue that can present a barrier to being physically active,” said Patrick O’Connor, co-director of the UGA exercise psychology laboratory. “Our results show that when individuals with medical conditions such as these adopt and maintain a program of regular exercise, they report feeling happier and less depressed.”

The study was led by Matthew Herring during his dissertation research in the College of Education’s department of kinesiology. The research team included O’Connor; Rodney Dishman, exercise psychology laboratory; and Timothy Puetz, who earned his doctorate at UGA.