Depression has long been recognized as a major problem for people who suffer from congestive heart failure.
Now, a new study has found that exercise can significantly lift a patient’s spirits, as well as alleviate the physical effects of heart failure.
Researchers divided 2,322 patients with stable heart failure into two groups. One group was assigned to an exercise program under supervision for 30 minutes three times a week. After three months, this group progressed to exercising for 120 minutes a week, unsupervised and at home.
The other group received the “usual care,” which meant disease management counseling along with a recommendation to exercise. The researchers found that the exercising group scored slightly better on a depression test. This improvement was maintained when the subjects were retested a year later.
The exercisers were 15 percent less likely to be hospitalized or die during the follow-up period than the group receiving the usual care.
The lead researcher, James A. Blumenthal, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, noted that the difference was equal to other therapies for depression, including antidepressants.
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