Effects of exercise on depression in adults with arthritis: a systematic review with meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

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Introduction: Previous randomized controlled trials have led to conflicting findings regarding the effects of exercise on depressive symptoms in adults with arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (AORC). The purpose of this study was to use the meta-analytic approach to resolve these discrepancies. Methods: The inclusion criteria were: (1) randomized controlled trials, (2) exercise (aerobic, strength training, or both) ≥4 weeks, (3) comparative control group, (4) adults with osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia or systemic lupus erythematosus, (5) published studies in any language since January 1, 1981 and (6) depressive symptoms assessed. Studies were located by searching 10 electronic databases, cross-referencing, hand searching and expert review. Dual-selection of studies and data abstraction was performed. Hedge’s standardized mean difference effect size (g) was calculated for each result and pooled using random-effects models, an approach that accounts for heterogeneity. Non-overlapping 95% confidence intervals (CI) were considered statistically significant. Heterogeneity based on fixed-effect models was estimated using Q and I 2 with alpha values ≤0.10 for Q considered statistically significant. Results: Of the 500 citations reviewed, 2,449 participants (1,470 exercise, 979 control) nested within 29 studies were included. Length of training, reported as mean ± standard deviation (±SD) was 19 ± 16 weeks, frequency 4 ± 2 times per week and duration 34 ± 17 minutes per session. Overall, statistically significant exercise minus control group reductions were found for depressive symptoms (g = −0.42, 95% CI, −0.58, −0.26, Q = 126.9, P