Resistance Exercise Can Improve Depression in Patients With Alzheimer Disease, Sarcopenia

Patients with Alzheimer disease who participated in elastic resistance exercises showed changes in depressive symptoms, muscle function, and muscle mass.

Resistance exercise reduced the severity of depressive symptoms in patients with Alzheimer disease and sarcopenia, according to data published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Investigators recruited 40 women with mild Alzheimer disease and sarcopenia who were admitted to a nursing hospital in Korea between October and December 2018. All patients also presented with depression. Sarcopenia was defined by low muscle function (hand grip strength <18 kg and/or gait speed <0.8 m/s) and low muscle mass (skeletal muscle mass index <5.7 kg/m2). Patients were randomly assigned to either the exercise (n=20) or control (n=20) group for 12 weeks. Each exercise session, conducted nonconsecutively, consisted of a 10-minute warm-up and 40 minutes of elastic resistance exercise. Patients in the control group did not perform any exercise. Investigators monitored patients for changes in depressive symptoms, muscle function, and muscle mass.

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Patients were mean (standard deviation) age 79.3 (5.1) years, with a range of 66 to 85 years. After 12 weeks, the patients in the exercise group experienced greater improvements on the Beck Depression Inventory and Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (both P <.001); greater isometric maximal voluntary contraction of shoulder abduction (P =.003), hip and elbow flexion, and knee extension (all P <.001); greater grip strength (P =.017); and greater gait speed (P <.001) than the control group. Changes in skeletal muscle mass were small, and not significantly different between groups (P =.074).

These data suggest that resistance exercise was an effective tool for controlling depressive symptoms in patients with mild Alzheimer disease and sarcopenia. Resistance exercise also improved patient muscle strength, indicating its utility in managing sarcopenia symptoms as well. 


Chang MC, Lee AY, Kwak S, Kwak SG. Effect of resistance exercise on depression in mild Alzheimer’s disease patients with sarcopenia [published online July 27, 2019]. Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2019.07.013

This article originally appeared on Psychiatry Advisor