Aerobic exercise and cognitive therapy in the treatment of dysphoric moods

Abstract

This study examined the separate and combined effects of verbal (cognitive) therapy and aerobic exercise for the treatment of individuals experiencing difficulties coping with dysphoric moods. Sixty-one volunteers who scored between 9 and 30 on the Beck Depression Inventory were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: running only, cognitive therapy only, or combined running and therapy. Cognitive therapy was provided in 10 weekly individual sessions, while supervised running was conducted in small groups three times a week for 10 weeks. All three treatment conditions produced significant but not differential improvement over time on measures assessing a variety of mood states. Posthoc analyses demonstrated that all treatments were equally effective for individuals who initially would have been considered to be mildly depressed (BDI < 20) and those who would have been considered moderately depressed (BDI ≥ 20). Four-month follow-up data indicated that the improvement had been maintained. The correlation between improvement on depression scores and an index of improved physiological functioning was not significant. Thus, the mechanism through which exercise influences mood was not clarified. These results suggest that supervised involvement in aerobic exercise may be a viable and cost-efficient alternative treatment to traditional individual verbal therapy for some individuals experiencing difficulty with dysphoric moods.

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Correspondence to Linda Wilcoxon Craighead.

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This article is based on Jeffrey Fremont's doctoral dissertation, which was conducted under the supervision of Linda W. Craighead at The Pennsylvania State University.

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Fremont, J., Craighead, L.W. Aerobic exercise and cognitive therapy in the treatment of dysphoric moods. Cogn Ther Res 11, 241–251 (1987). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01183268

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Key words

  • depression
  • exercise
  • cognitive therapy
  • moods