Exercise parameters in the treatment of clinical depression: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Luke G. Perraton, Saravana Kumar, Zuzana MacHotka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Rationale, aims and objectives Previous systematic reviews have concluded that exercise programmes are effective in the management of clinical depression. The aim of this review was to analyse the parameters of exercise programmes reported in the primary research, in order to provide clinicians with evidence-based recommendations for exercise prescription for clinical depression. Methods A systematic review of randomized controlled trials was undertaken. Only trials that reported exercise to be effective in treating depression were included and our review was limited to adults. Appropriate databases and reference lists were searched using established keywords. Data relating to the type, intensity, frequency, duration, mode of exercise and mode of application of exercise was extracted and collated. Results A total of 14 randomized controlled trials were included in this review and from these trials 20 intervention arms were analysed. The majority of trials used an aerobic exercise intervention and were supervised. The most common exercise parameters were 60-80% of maximum heart rate for 30 minutes three times per week for an overall duration of 8 weeks. There is an equal volume of evidence supporting group as opposed to individually completed exercise programmes and no trends were identified which would support one mode of exercise over another. Conclusions Currently the primary research on this topic supports the use of aerobic exercise which is supervised in some capacity. The current evidence base supports a prescription of three 30-minute sessions per week of aerobic exercise at 60-80% of maximum heart rate for at least 8 weeks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-604
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Aerobic exercise
  • Anaerobic exercise
  • Clinical depression
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Exercise parameters
  • Randomized controlled trial

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