Sticking with it? Factors associated with exercise adherence in people with mild to moderate depression

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Abstract

Background:

Exercise is an effective treatment for depression but non-adherence is common. The aim of this study was to determine the level of adherence to an exercise intervention, specifically factors associated with adherence in a depressed population.

Methods:

This study reports the secondary analysis from a randomized controlled trial. The 310 participants were aged 18–67 years and affected by mild to moderate depression i.e. scoring ≥10 on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9). Adherence to an exercise intervention (light, moderate, vigorous, performed three times a week for 12 weeks) was measured using pulse watches or self-reports (78.4% vs. 21.6%). Factors associated with adherence were explored using negative binomial regression models.

Results:

Adherers (≥12 sessions, 32.7%) exercised on average 22.9 (SD = 7.4) times, while sub-adherers (1–11 sessions, 26.9%) attended on average 4.7 (SD = 3.1) sessions. Around 40% of participants were non-adherers (0 sessions). Tobacco use and hazardous alcohol use were associated with a lower adherence while flexibility at work was associated with higher adherence.

Conclusion:

Tobacco use, hazardous alcohol use and flexibility at work can influence adherence to an exercise program among depressed people and should be considered when applying exercise interventions.

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