Alternative treatments for co-occurring chronic conditions and depression have received increased attention in recent years. Exercise is now being recognized as an effective treatment to combat depression symptoms associated with chronic illnesses. But how does exercise improve the mental and physical wellbeing of individuals with co-occurring conditions? And why is it crucial to focus on depression in these cases?

Depression is a common co-morbid condition, and individuals with chronic illnesses such as cancer, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease are at a higher risk of developing depression. Coping with the challenges and changes brought about by these conditions can be daunting, leading to depression.

Research has shown that exercise can effectively manage depressive symptoms in individuals with co-occurring conditions. It can improve both physical and mental health, enhancing daily functioning and regulating responses to stress. Exercise has also been linked to improved sleep quality, cardiovascular health, and reduced mortality rates.

Reducing depression symptoms can positively impact the efficacy of treatments for other conditions. Studies have found that depression is associated with reduced adherence to medical treatments, emphasizing the need for alternative therapies in individuals with co-occurring conditions. By addressing depression, adherence to other treatments can be improved, leading to better overall health outcomes.

Addressing the negative effects of depression can significantly enhance quality of life in individuals with co-occurring conditions. It is important to tackle both conditions simultaneously, as solely treating the chronic condition does not guarantee relief from depressive symptoms. Exercise can be a vital treatment option, providing both physical and mental health benefits, with long-term positive effects on mental wellbeing in individuals with chronic conditions.

Belvederi Murri, M., Ekkekakis, P., Magagnoli, M., Zampogna, D., Cattedra, S., Capobianco, L., … & Amore, M. (2019). Physical exercise in major depression: reducing the mortality gap while improving clinical outcomes. Frontiers in psychiatry9, 762.

Birk, J. L., Kronish, I. M., Moise, N., Falzon, L., Yoon, S., & Davidson, K. W. (2019). Depression and multimorbidity: Considering temporal characteristics of the associations between depression and multiple chronic diseases. Health Psychology, 38(9), 802–811.

Gold, S.M., Köhler-Forsberg, O., Moss-Morris, R. et al. Comorbid depression in medical diseases. Nat Rev Dis Primers 6, 69 (2020).

Herring, M. P., Puetz, T. W., O’Connor, P. J., & Dishman, R. K. (2012). Effect of exercise training on depressive symptoms among patients with a chronic illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Archives of Internal Medicine172(2), 101-111.

Schuch, F. B., & Stubbs, B. (2019). The role of exercise in preventing and treating depression. Current sports medicine reports18(8), 299-304.

Stewart, A. L., Hays, R. D., Wells, K. B., Rogers, W. H., Spritzer, K. L., & Greenfield, S. (1994). Long-term functioning and well-being outcomes associated with physical activity and exercise in patients with chronic conditions in the Medical Outcomes Study. Journal of clinical epidemiology47(7), 719-730.