Exercise as it relates to Disease/the effects of exercise on depression in older adults

What is depression?Edit

Depression[1] is a serious illness that has an impact on physical and mental health. Symptoms include:
• Lowered mood
• Inability to experience pleasure
• Increased sense of worthlessness
• Fatigue
• Preoccupation with death and suicide
• Increased inability to work
• Increased dependence and use of medical services

What's an 'older adult'?Edit

Any person who is 60 years of age or older.

Depression in older Australian adultsEdit

Australia's population is increasingly becoming older. With this comes an increased prevalence of chronic disease and morbidity. These diseases can be debilitating and restrict the individual from leading a fulfilling and free life. This quite often leads to an onset of depression. The most popular treatment for depression is medication in the form of antidepressants. These drugs are very effective but have severe side effects, which can impact on the quality of life of the individual.[4]

Effects of exercise on depressionEdit

Does exercise effect depression?Edit

It's been discovered that exercise can be as effective as anti depressant medication for older adults who suffer from depression. Exercise can lead to a greater quality of life, with the absence of unwanted side effects from medication.[4]
It has been shown that exercise can reduce the incidence of older adults becoming depressed by up to 20% [2]
The type of exercise that can be undertaken by older adults can be from a variety of modes. Both aerobic and resistance based exercise have been shown to have a positive effect on older adults suffering depression [3]
More specifically high intensity progressive resistance exercise and aerobic interval exercise have both been shown to be more effective in treating older adults with depression, when compared to low intensity modalities [5]
Exercise was also shown to be an effective long term option for older adults suffering depression [6]

What is the best form of exercise for older adults who suffer from depression?Edit

Aerobic exercise has been found to be the best form of physical activity in older adults to combat depression.[7] This can be in many different forms such as walking, jogging, running and cycling.


Older adults who are undertaking an exercise program of any sort, should undergo a pre exercise screening test to identify any health risk concerns associated with the individual exercising.
Black Dog Institute exercise recomendations for depression[8]
Older adults generally have more health complications. These factors are vital in determining what form of exercise is suitable and appropriate for the individual. As a general rule any form of physical activity daily is better than nothing at all.
Physical activity of 150min/week or 30min/day, would be ideal for older adults who are suffering depression. The physical and medical restrictions will determine what modalities and intensity of the exercise that should be undertaken.

Exercise Mode Aerobic[9] Resistance[10]
Exercise Intensity Interval/low intensity High/low intensity
Exercise duration 30min + 30-45min +
Exercise frequency 3-5 p/w 2-3 p/w

Table1: Exercise guide for older adults with depression.

For additional information on depressionEdit

First point of reference would be your local GP and further possibly a Psychogeriatrician.
To find out more about understanding depression in older adults visit:
www.seniors.gov.au[13] - which is specific to the older adult age group.
Managing Depression Growing Older: a guide for professionals and carers, Kerrie Eyers, Gordon Parker and Henry Brodaty (2012) Allen and Unwin.


  1. Wiki media. (05/09/2014). Depression.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depression
  2. a b Strawbridge, W. J., Deleger, S., Roberts, R. E., & Kaplan, G. A. (2002). Physical activity reduces the risk of subsequent depression for older adults. American Journal of Epidemiology, 156(4), 328-334.
  3. a b Barbour, K. A., & Blumenthal, J. A. (2005). Exercise training and depression in older adults. Neurobiology of Aging, 26(1), 119-123.
  4. a b Blumenthal, J. A., Babyak, M. A., Moore, K. A., Craighead, W. E., Herman, S., Khatri, P., . . . Appelbaum, M. (1999). Effects of exercise training on older patients with major depression. Archives of Internal Medicine, 159(19), 2349-2356.
  5. Singh, N. A., Stavrinos, T. M., Scarbek, Y., Galambos, G., Liber, C., & Fiatarone Singh, M. A. (2005). A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 60(6), 768-776.
  6. Singh, N. A., Clements, K. M., & Singh, M. A. (2001). The efficacy of exercise as a long-term antidepressant in elderly subjects: a randomized, controlled trial. The Journals of Gerontology.Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 56(8), M497-504.
  7. Penninx, B. W., Rejeski, W. J., Pandya, J., Miller, M. E., Di Bari, M., Applegate, W. B., & Pahor, M. (2002). Exercise and depressive symptoms: a comparison of aerobic and resistance exercise effects on emotional and physical function in older persons with high and low depressive symptomatology. The Journals of Gerontology.Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 57(2), P124-32.
  8. Black Dog Institute. (2012). Exercise your mood.http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZNboKXCTZl4
  9. Wiki media. (18/09/2014). Aerobic exercise.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aerobic_exercise
  10. Wiki media. (26/09/2014). Strength training.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_training
  11. Beyondblue. (2014). Beyondblue, Depression, Anxiety.http://www.beyondblue.org.au/
  12. Black Dog Institute. (25/07/2014). Black Dog Institute - Because everyone deserves peace of mind.http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/aboutus/overview.cfm
  13. Australian Government - Department of social services. (2014). My Aged Care.http://www.myagedcare.gov.au/