Exercise can help people with certain genetic traits lower depressive symptoms more, says a new study.
The researchers believe that in the future, it is possible that blood or saliva could be tested to determine if a person could benefit from physical activity to lower depressive symptoms.
The researchers found that men who were carriers of two specific genes had the most significant response to exercise.
The results suggest physical activity as part of a treatment plan — exercise as moderate as walking — could help the carriers of these genes.
“I want to better understand who could benefit most from physical activity. I’d like to take the same approach to exercise that we take to medication, which is to have a personalised medicine approach,” said the study’s first author Vonetta Dotson, assistant professor at the University of Florida in the US.
“If we show through systematic research that exercise has a good chance of helping a patient because of their particular characteristics, I think that might help with patients’ motivation to exercise,” Dotson noted.
The study used data gathered in the Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE, pilot study.
During the LIFE pilot study, 396 sedentary older adults were separated into two groups: those who received health education classes and those who were given moderate physical activity classes for 12 months.
The participants also underwent genetic testing before the intervention, and the researchers tested three genes — the brain-derived neurotrophic, or BDNF, gene, a serotonin transporter gene and a gene called apolipoprotein E.
The researchers found the greatest decrease in symptoms such as loss of appetite and concentration difficulties in men who carried the BDNF genetic variation that predisposed them to depression.