The effect of aerobic exercise on various symptoms of depression: the mediating role of quality of life

  • Jafar AskariEmail author
  • Alireza Saberi-Kakhki
  • Hamidreza Taheri
  • Seyyed Mojtaba Yassini
  • Afsaneh Hassanbeigi
Original Article



The aim of this study is to assess the effect of aerobic exercise on the three categories of somatic, affective and cognitive symptoms of depression, and to evaluate the mediating role of quality of life (QOL) domains on this effectiveness.


Thirty-one female outpatients suffering from major depressive disorder aged 20-50 years were divided into intervention (n = 15) and control (n = 16) groups. The intervention group received an aerobic exercise program consisting of 36 one-hour sessions, three times a week in the gym with an intensity of 50–70% maximum heart rate and the control group received only routine treatment. Beck Depression Inventory-II and the World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF questionnaire were used.


Post-intervention results showed a significant reduction in the intensity of the three somatic (p < 0.001), affective (p < 0.001) and cognitive (p < 0.013) symptoms of depression and a significant improvement in the psychological health (p < 0.002) and social relationships (p < 0.003) domains of QOL in the intervention group compared with the control group. No significant difference was found in other domains of QOL between the two groups.


Aerobic exercise, as a multi-dimensional adjunctive treatment along with routine care, can further improve all three categories of somatic, affective, and cognitive symptoms of depression, especially by enhancing the psychological health and social relationships domains of QOL.


Aerobic exercise Major depressive disorder Quality of life Psychological health 



The authors would like to thank the president and personnel of Bahman Psychiatric Hospital in Yazd, Iran for their support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This study was approved by the ethics committee of Mashhad University of Medical Sciences (Register Code: IR.MUMS.REC.1395.6), and was registered as a clinical trial in the Iranian Registry of Clinical Trials (, Register Code: IRCT2016082929598N1).

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyImam Reza International UniversityMashhadIran
  2. 2.Department of Clinical Psychology, Research Center of Addiction and Behavioral SciencesShahid Sadoughi University of Medical SciencesYazdIran
  3. 3.Department of Motor Behavior, Faculty of Physical Education and Sport SciencesFerdowsi University of MashhadMashhadIran
  4. 4.Department of Psychiatry, Research Center of Addiction and Behavioral SciencesShahid Sadoughi University of Medical SciencesYazdIran
  5. 5.Mental Hospital, Research Center of Addiction and Behavioral SciencesShahid Sadoughi University of Medical SciencesYazdIran

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