University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006
The effect of exercise and light on mood
Doctoral dissertation, September 2006.
The aim of the study was to compare the effect physical exercise and bright light has on mood in healthy, working-age subjects with varying degrees of depressive symptoms. Previous research suggests that exercise may have beneficial effects on mood at least in subjects with depression. Bright light exposure is an effective treatment of winter depression, and possibly of non-seasonal depression as well. Limited data exist on the effect of exercise and bright light on mood in non-clinical populations, and no research has been done on the combination of these interventions.
Working-age subjects were recruited through occupational health centres and 244 subjects were randomized into intervention groups: exercise, either in bright light or normal lighting, and relaxation / stretching sessions, either in bright light or normal gym lighting. During the eight-week intervention in midwinter, subjects rated their mood using a self-rating version of the Hamilton Depression Scale with additional questions for atypical depressive symptoms.
The main finding of the study was that both exercise and bright-light exposure were effective in treating depressive symptoms. When the interventions were combined, the relative reduction in the Hamilton Depression Scale was 40 to 66%, and in atypical depressive symptoms even higher, 45 to 85%. Bright light exposure was more effective than exercise in treating atypical depressive symptoms. No single factor could be found that would predict a good response to these interventions.
In conclusion, aerobic physical exercise twice a week during wintertime was effective in treating depressive symptoms. Adding bright light exposure to exercise increased the benefit, especially by reducing atypical depressive symptoms. Since this is so, this treatment could prevent subsequent major depressive episodes among the population generally.
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© University of Helsinki 2006
Last updated 15.08.2006