The Effect of Exercise on Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

23.08.2016 10:07:00



The lifetime prevalence of depression in adolescents has doubled between the mid-1980s and 2000s. To this extent, the prevalence ıf major depressive disorder is now ranging from 4% to 8%, and as many as 12% of children and adolescents may have subthreshold symptoms of depression. Alarmingly, 20% of young people experience at least 1 episode of major depression before they reach 18 years of age


In recent years, there has been increased, yet limited, number of studies investigating the effect of physical exercise or physical activity on depression in children and adolescents (physical activity is defined as a planned, structured, repetitive, and purposive physical activity, aiming to improve or maintain 1 or more physical component), and there is some evidence suggesting this may be a promising strategy. Laurun et al. reported a small to moderate treatment effect in favor of exercise, and Brown et al. found a small treatment effect for physical activity over nonphysical activity comparisons. The conclusions form 5these reviews, however, are not without limitations. Laurun et al. reported that the majority of trials tended to have small sample sized and were of low methodoligical quality. Considering also that depression is more prevalent among adolescents than children, alongside the recent increased attention to this field, a meta-analytic review is warranted to examine antideperessant effect of exercise in adolescents. This review will specifically explore the effect of exercise on depressive symptoms for adolescents aged 13 to 17 years.


A broad literature search was developed. After systematically searching 7 electronic databases, eleven trials met the inclusion criteria. Exercise showed a statistically significant moderate overall effect on depressive symptom reduction.


Physical exercise appears to improve depressive symptoms in adolescents, especially in clinical samples in which the moderate antidepressant effect and higher methodological quality suggest that exercise may be a useful treatment strategy for depression. Larger trials with clinical samples that adequately minimize the risk of bias are required for firmer conclusions on the effectiveness of exercise as an antidepressant treatment.





Reference: Carter, T., Morres, I. D., Meade, O., & Callaghan, P. (2016). The effect of exercise on depressive symptoms in adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 55 (7), 580-590.

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