Study: Exercise Likely the Best Treatment for Depression in Patients With Coronary Heart Disease


The study authors said this research is the first systematic review that compares treatments for depression in those with coronary disease.

A new study in Psychosomatic Medicine finds that exercise is likely the most effective option for the short-term treatment for depression among individuals with coronary heart disease versus antidepressants, psychotherapy, or more complex care.

The study authors said this research is the first systematic review that compares treatments for depression in those with coronary disease. They added that the findings can help guide physicians to develop the optimal treatment plan for patients.

The research team analyzed treatment trials that evaluated antidepressants, psychotherapy, exercise, combined psychotherapy and antidepressants, and collaborative care. They also examined factors such as patient adherence to treatment and changes in depressive symptoms 8 weeks after the start of treatment.

The therapies that showed the strongest effects were exercise and combination treatments, or antidepressants and psychotherapy, according to the study authors. They added that the results have a significant limitation in bias risk; however, the findings indicate that exercise is likely the most effective treatment. Further, antidepressants had the greatest research support, whereas psychotherapy and collaborative care did not perform as well, according to the study authors.

"Depression is common in patients with coronary artery disease. Having both conditions can have a significant impact on the quality of life for patients so it is vital that they access to the most effective treatments," said study first author Frank Doyle, MD, senior lecturer of the Division of Population Health Sciences at RCSI in a press release. "Our study indicates that exercise is likely to be the best treatment for depression following coronary artery disease.”

Doyle added that although researchers see growing evidence of the importance of lifestyle to treat disease, further high-quality research is needed.

“People with coronary heart disease who have symptoms of depression should talk to their doctor about treatments that are most suitable for their personal needs, and clinicians can be confident of recommending exercise to their patients,” he said in the press release.


Exercise likely to be best treatment for depression in coronary heart disease. EurekAlert! Published June 8, 2021. Accessed June 9, 2021.

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