Effects of aerobic exercise on sexual functioning in depressed adults


Journal Article

Objective: Exercise appears to be generally comparable to antidepressant medication in reducing depressive symptoms. The current study examines the effects of aerobic exercise, compared to antidepressant medication and placebo pill, on sexual function among depressed adults. Methods: Two hundred clinically depressed adults, aged 40 years and over, who were sedentary and generally overweight, were randomized to 4 months of Aerobic Exercise, Sertraline (Zoloft), or Placebo pill, for the treatment of depression. Exercise condition participants engaged in walking, running, or biking, 30 min/day, 3 days/week, to 70-85% of their heart rate reserve, in either a supervised group setting or independently at home. Before and following treatment, participants completed the Arizona Sexual Experiences Questionnaire (ASEX) and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D). An ANCOVA was performed to test the effects of treatment on post-treatment sexual function, controlling for age, sex, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension, pretreatment HAM-D scores, and pretreatment ASEX scores. Results: The treatment group main effect was significant (p = .02); exercisers had better post-treatment ASEX scores (adjusted ASEX M = 16.6) compared to the placebo group (adjusted ASEX M = 18.3; p = .01). Exercisers had post-treatment ASEX scores that were marginally better compared to the sertraline group, but this difference did not reach statistical significance (adjusted ASEX M = 17.9; p = .05). Conclusion: Aerobic exercise, which has been associated with reduced symptoms of depression comparable to antidepressant medication, appears to result in greater improvement in sexual function compared to placebo pill. A nonsignificant trend towards better sexual function among exercisers compared to antidepressant medication may be attributable to medication-related sexual side effects. © 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hoffman, BM; Babyak, MA; Sherwood, A; Hill, EE; Patidar, SM; Doraiswamy, PM; Blumenthal, JA

Published Date

  • June 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 2 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 23 - 28

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1755-2966

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.mhpa.2008.12.001

Citation Source

  • Scopus