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Late life major depression (LLMD) is usually treated within primary care, but still with unsatisfactory outcomes and significant residual symptoms. Moreover, LLMD increases symptoms of anxiety, dyspnea, fear of falling (FOF), and risk of falls. Evidence from non-depressed patients suggests the efficacy of breathing and postural exercises; in particular, rhythmic breathing during poetry recitation was shown to improve cardio-respiratory synchronization. Thus, the aim of the HESIOD study was to test the efficacy of antidepressants plus breathing and postural exercises to improve patients’ anxiety mood, dyspnea, FOF, and postural stability.
Two non-randomised groups were compared: (1) antidepressant drugs plus weekly sessions of breathing/postural exercises based on the rhythmic recitation of hexameter poetry (intervention); (2) antidepressant drugs plus weekly sessions of group reading (comparator). Patients aged 65 +, with non-psychotic recurrent LLMD were recruited from a psychiatric consultation-liaison program for primary care. The main outcome measure was remission from depression (MADRS score ≤ 10) at 24 weeks. Secondary outcomes will include accelerometer-based measures of postural stability; patient-rated dyspnea, and FOF.
Preliminary data on 34 patients show that patients receiving breathing and postural exercises displayed greater remission rates than those in the reading group (47.1% vs. 11.8%, P = 0.02). Further analyses will examine the effects on postural stability, dyspnea and FOF.
Breathing and postural exercises may exert significant clinical advantage when added to the standard antidepressant drug therapy for LLMD. This study might prompt further research on innovative treatment strategies to improve the outcomes of late life depression in primary care.
Disclosure of interest
The authors have not supplied their declaration of competing interest.
Interventions including physical exercise may help improve the outcomes of late-life major depression, but few studies are available.
To investigate whether augmenting sertraline therapy with physical exercise leads to better outcomes of late-life major depression.
Primary care patients (>65 years) with major depression were randomised to 24 weeks of higher-intensity, progressive aerobic exercise plus sertraline (S+PAE), lower-intensity, non-progressive exercise plus sertraline (S+NPE) and sertraline alone. The primary outcome was remission (a score of $10 on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression).
A total of 121 patients were included. At study end, 45% of participants in the sertraline group, 73% of those in the S+NPE group and 81% of those in the S+PAE group achieved remission (P = 0.001). A shorter time to remission was observed in the S+PAE group than in the sertraline-only group.
Physical exercise may be a safe and effective augmentation to antidepressant therapy in late-life major depression.
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