Exercise combined with counseling improved well-being among depressed heart patients more effectively than either exercise or therapy alone, according to a study presented at the May 2008 American Heart Association’s Scientific Forum on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research in Cardiovascular Disease and Stroke, in Baltimore.
Researchers at the School of Nursing at Emory University in Atlanta put 74 clinically depressed heart failure patients into four groups for 12 weeks: walking exercise plus counseling, only counseling, only exercise and “usual care.” The exercise consisted of walking for 30 minutes at least 3 days a week. Counseling included one-on-one sessions once a week geared toward changing attitudes about illness. “We wanted [the patients] to change their negative thoughts and beliefs and restructure and reformat how they think about their illness and limitations,” said lead author, Rebecca Gary, PhD.
Notably, patients in the combined group not only had the most relief from depressive symptoms but also improved significantly better in the 6-minute walk test than members of the other groups.