Sports Medicine

, Volume 32, Issue 12, pp 741–760 | Cite as

Exercise and the Treatment of Clinical Depression in Adults

Recent Findings and Future Directions
  • Alisha L. Brosse
  • Erin S. Sheets
  • Heather S. Lett
  • James A. BlumenthalEmail author
Leading Article


This article critically reviews the evidence that exercise is effective in treating depression in adults. Depression is recognised as a mood state, clinical syndrome and psychiatric condition, and traditional methods for assessing depression (e.g. standard interviews, questionnaires) are described. In order to place exercise therapy into context, more established methods for treating clinical depression are discussed. Observational (e.g. cross-sectional and correlational) and interventional studies of exercise are reviewed in healthy adults, those with comorbid medical conditions, and patients with major depression. Potential mechanisms by which exercise may reduce depression are described, and directions for future research in the area are suggested. The available evidence provides considerable support for the value of exercise in reducing depressive symptoms in both healthy and clinical populations. However, many studies have significant methodological limitations. Thus, more data from carefully conducted clinical trials are needed before exercise can be recommended as an alternative to more traditional, empirically validated pharmacological and behavioural therapies.


Depressive Symptom Major Depressive Disorder Exercise Training Aerobic Exercise Antidepressant Medication 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Supported by grants MH49679 and MO1-RR-30 from the National Institutes of Health. The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alisha L. Brosse
    • 1
  • Erin S. Sheets
    • 1
  • Heather S. Lett
    • 2
  • James A. Blumenthal
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ColoradoBolderUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesDuke University Medical CenterDurhamUSA

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