Drop-out and mood improvement: a randomised controlled trial with light exposure and physical exercise [ISRCTN36478292]

Leppämäki, Sami; Haukka, Jari; Lönnqvist, Jouko; Partonen, Timo
January 2004
BMC Psychiatry;2004, Vol. 4, p22
Academic Journal
Background: Combining bright light exposure and physical exercise may be an effective way of relieving depressive symptoms. However, relatively little is known about individual factors predicting either a good response or treatment failure. We explored background variables possibly explaining the individual variation in treatment response or failure in a randomised trial. Methods: Participants were volunteers of working-age, free from prior mental disorders and recruited via occupational health centres. The intervention was a randomised 8-week trial with three groups: aerobics in bright light, aerobics in normal room lighting, and relaxation/stretching in bright light. Good response was defined as a 50% decrease in the symptom score on either the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS) or 8-item scale of atypical symptoms. Background variables for the analysis included sex, age, body-mass index, general health habits, seasonal pattern, and sleep disturbances. Results: Complete data were received from 98 subjects (11 men, 87 women). Of them, 42 (5 men, 37 women) were classified as responders on the HDRS. Overall, light had a significant effect on the number of responders, as assessed with the HDRS (X² = .02). The number needed to treat (NNT) for light was 3.8. Conclusions: We investigated the effect of bright light and exercise on depressive symptoms. Problems with sleep, especially initial insomnia, may predict a good response to treatment using combined light and exercise. Bright light exposure and physical exercise, even in combination, seem to be well tolerated and effective on depressive symptoms.


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