Carraro, A., & Gobbi, E. (2014). Exercise intervention to reduce depressive symptoms in adults with intellectual disabilities. Perceptual & Motor Skills, 119(1), 1-5.
Summary: Alex X. Martínez
People with intellectual disability (ID) often experience depressive symptoms. The stress associated with social interactions has a negative effect on psychological well-being. Daily living barriers could arise due to infrequent use of active coping. Active coping mechanisms can be affected negatively by depression symptoms. There is evidence suggesting that exercise improves depressive symptoms in people with ID. However research on treatment of depressive symptoms seems to be scarce. The purpose of this study was to assess a short-term group-based exercise program on depressive symptoms in adults with ID.
Participants were randomly assigned to an exercise group or a group that participated in painting activities. The exercise group met two times per week to perform one-hour sessions of group-based exercise, adapted games, relaxation, and breathing exercises. The painting group participated twice per week in one-hour sessions of painting activities involving minimal physical effort and social interaction. The participants answered a modified version of the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale to measure the frequency of depressive symptoms. The measures were collected at baseline, after six weeks, and then after 12 weeks. Higher scores represented a greater perception of depressive symptoms.
The exercise group presented a significant reduction in scores of the depression scale when compared to the control group (32.36 at baseline, 28.36 at six weeks, and 23.71 after 12 weeks compared to 32.00 at baseline, 30.31 at six weeks, and 29.77 after 12 weeks, respectively).
This study confirmed that people with ID often experience depressive symptoms and that exercise is an effective way to reduce these symptoms. Probst & Carraro reported that exercise helps to improve mental health by acting on the physiological and psychosocial domains. The authors of this study suggest that the reduction of depressive symptoms was attributed to a combination of factors including the discussion of personal feelings, social interactions, physical improvements, and muscle relaxation. Further research should focus on the benefits of exercise modalities on depressive symptoms and the assessment of whether these benefits are maintained over time.