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Using Exercise To Counteract Depression

17 January 2006

Using Exercise To Counteract Depression In Older People

The potential benefits of regular activity for nearly 200 older people with depression are to be tested in a University of Auckland study that begins this month.

Principal investigator Dr Ngaire Kerse from the University's School of Population Health said there is a link between levels of disability and depression in older people.

"It becomes a depression cycle. Disability levels lead to depression, and depression leads to disability, creating a downward spiral for older people.

"We know physical activity and exercise programmes benefit individual health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as improving the overall quality of life, and reducing falls.

"There is also growing evidence that regular exercise helps to improve a person's mood.

"My fellow researchers and I want to evaluate the impact of a home-based activity programme that also involves a level of social participation. We will examine how it affects quality of life, the way people function day to day, and depressive symptoms," said Dr Kerse.

The randomised study will recruit participants through large general practices in the Auckland region. Seriously ill or suicidal patients will not be included.

Participants in the intervention group will be visited at home by a trained nurse and instructed in an acceptable home based activity programme that will include goal setting, progressive resistance training and walking

Those in the control group will receive social visits from a person interested in issues for older people.

Dr Kerse said if the study shows that exercise has a positive impact, the findings will be significant for the future management of health issues among older people with depression.

"If a person's ability to function and their quality of life improve as a result of daily exercise, then we would also expect a decline in the impact of depression on overall health status, and reduced demand for health care."

General practitioners in the Auckland region interested in finding out more about this study can contact Dr Ngaire Kerse on 09 373 7599, extension 84467.

The study is funded by a New Zealand Health Research Council grant.


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