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Original Research ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00694

Sprint interval training and continuous aerobic exercise training have similar effects on exercise motivation and affective responses to exercise in patients with major depressive disorders: A randomized controlled trial

  • 1Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, Universität Basel, Switzerland
  • 2Klinikum Sonnenhalde, Switzerland
  • 3German Sport University Cologne, Germany

Background: Sprint interval training (SIT) has become increasingly popular, and is seen as a promising exercise strategy to increase fitness in healthy people. Nevertheless, some scholars doubt the appropriateness of a SIT training protocol for largely physically inactive populations. SIT might be too arduous, and therefore contribute to feelings of incompetence, failure, and lower self-esteem, which may undermine participants’ exercise motivation. Therefore, we examined whether participation in twelve SIT sessions would lead to different changes in self-determined motivation, affective responses to exercise, cardiorespiratory fitness, physical activity, and depressive symptom severity compared to aerobic exercise training (CAT) in a sample of patients with major depressive disorders (MDD).
Methods: Two groups of 25 patients (39 women, 11 men) with unipolar depression were randomly assigned to the SIT or CAT condition (M=36.4 years, SD=11.3). Data were assessed at baseline and post-intervention (three weekly 35-min sessions of SIT/CAT over a 4-week period). Self-determined exercise motivation was assessed with a 12-item self-rating questionnaire, affective valence was assessed in each session, prior, during, and after the exercise training using the Feeling Scale (FS). Cardiovascular fitness was measured with a maximal bicycle ergometer test, self-perceived fitness with a 1-item rating scale, physical activity with the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ-SF), and depressive symptom severity with the Beck Depression Inventory II.
Results: The SIT and CAT groups did not differ with regard to their changes in self-determined motivation from baseline to post-intervention. Participants in the SIT and CAT group showed similar (positive) affective responses during and after the training sessions. Cardiorespiratory fitness, self-perceived fitness and depressive symptom severity similarly improved in the SIT and CAT group. Finally, significant increases were observed in self-reported physical activity from baseline to post-intervention. However, these increases were larger in the CAT compared to the SIT group.
Conclusion: From a motivational point of view, SIT seems just as suited as CAT in the treatment of patients with MDD. This is a promising finding because according to self-determination theory, it seems advantageous for patients to choose between different exercise therapy regimes, and for their preferences with regard to exercise-type and intensity to be considered.

Keywords: Affective response, Exercise, fitness, Major Depressive Disorder, Motivation, physical activity, randomized controlled trial, strint interval training

Received: 13 May 2018; Accepted: 29 Nov 2018.

Edited by:

Roumen Milev, Queen's University, Canada

Reviewed by:

Andrea Murru, Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, Spain
Andrea Schmitt, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany
Joseph Firth, Western Sydney University, Australia  

Copyright: © 2018 Gerber, Minghetti, Beck, Zahner and Donath. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Prof. Markus Gerber, Universität Basel, Department of Sport, Exercise and Health, Basel, CH-4052, Switzerland,