At least half of all heart attack victims suffer from depression 12 months after hospitalisation but a simple exercise regime can benefit them.

A report by Michelle Rogerson of Victoria University reveals the link between lack of exercise and higher levels of depression among people with coronary heart disease.

It showed that a self-devised 12-week exercise programme, including a fortnightly check-up, helped reduce depression levels.

“The less physically active people were, the more depressed they felt,” Ms. Rogerson said. “But by the end of the trial we found all of the depressed participants had increased their exercise levels and felt happier. It was a simple intervention but it had a major psychological effect.”

Ms. Rogerson said she was surprised by the high levels of depression found among the participants in the study.

“It was quite worrying to find about 65 percent of participants were at least mildly depressed following a heart event and that this rate dropped only to 50 percent after a year. The danger is that if depression is not acknowledged and addressed, the chances of it becoming chronic are much higher.”

Ms. Rogerson said heart attack victims often felt they had lost the ability and confidence to participate in exercise, which led to higher levels of depression, said a university release.

Participants identified forced retirement, lack of motivation, fear of triggering an additional physical problem and lack of social support as other barriers to exercise.

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