Should we recommend exercise to adolescents with depressive symptoms? A meta-analysis

Sara Radovic, Michael S. Gordon, Glenn A. Melvin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


There is growing interest in the potential role of exercise in the reduction of depressive symptoms. The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine whether exercise reduces depressive symptoms amongst depressed adolescents. The following databases were searched on 30 January 2015: MEDLINE, PsychINFO, SPORTDiscuss and PUBMED. Studies were included if they examined exercise interventions amongst adolescents with clinical levels of depressive symptoms, were published in peer-reviewed journals in the English language and contained a control/comparison group. Of 6631 retrieved studies, eight studies were included in the meta-analysis. Meta-analysis was conducted using a random effects model due to the high level of heterogeneity identified amongst studies (I 2 = 65.1, P <.005). The analysis revealed a moderate reduction in depressive symptoms post-intervention (Hedge's g = −0.61, P =.007). This analysis provides preliminary evidence that exercise is effective in reducing symptoms of depression among adolescents with clinical levels of depressive symptoms. The present meta-analysis, however, is limited by the generally low quality of included studies, high level of between-study heterogeneity and restriction of inclusion criteria to published studies. Further high-quality trials with depressed adolescents are needed to determine the efficacy of exercise in the reduction of depressive symptoms and the exercise parameters associated with the antidepressant effects of exercise.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-220
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • adolescent
  • psychiatry/mental health
  • depression

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