Annals of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 128–138 | Cite as

Depressive Symptom Outcomes of Physical Activity Interventions: Meta-analysis Findings

Original Article



Physical activity (PA) is consistently linked to mental health outcomes.


This meta-analysis synthesized depressive symptom outcomes of supervised and unsupervised PA interventions among healthy adults.


Comprehensive searching and coding were applied to PA interventions among adults without clinical depression. Analyses included random-effects standardized means, Q, and moderator analysis using analysis of variance and regression meta-analytic analogues.


Treatment versus control comparisons yielded a standardized mean effect size of 0.372 among 38 supervised PA studies and 0.522 among 22 unsupervised PA studies. Preliminary moderator analyses suggested that supervised PA interventions may be more effective when they include flexibility/resistance and low-intensity exercise. Unsupervised PA interventions may be more effective when they recommend center-based PA. Methodological moderators (random assignment, control group management) were identified.


These findings document that PA interventions reduce depressive symptoms even in adults without clinical depression. Moderator analyses suggest directions for future research as well as practice.


Meta-analysis Exercise Depression Intervention studies 



Financial support provided by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (R01NR009656) to Vicki Conn, principal investigator. The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Conflict of interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest. The author has no financial relationship with the funding agency (NIH). The author has full control of all primary data and agrees to allow the journal to review the data.


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© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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