The effects of exercise interventions on quality of life in clinical and healthy populations; a meta-analysis

Soc Sci Med. 2009 May;68(9):1700-10. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.02.028. Epub 2009 Mar 18.


The aim of the study was to provide an overview of the effect of exercise interventions on subjective quality of life (QoL) across adult clinical populations and well people, and to systematically investigate the impact of the exercise setting, intensity and type on these outcomes. From a systematic search of six electronic databases, 56 original studies were extracted, reporting on 7937 sick and well people. A meta-analysis was conducted on change in QoL from pre- to post-intervention compared with outcomes from a no-exercise control group, using weighted (by the study's sample size) pooled mean effect sizes and a fixed-effects model. Significant differences in outcome were found when treatment purpose was compared; prevention/promotion (well populations), rehabilitation, or disease management. Three to 6 months post-baseline, a moderate positive effect of exercise interventions was found for overall QoL in rehabilitation patients, but no significant effect for well or disease management groups. However, physical and psychological QoL domains improved significantly relative to controls in well participants. Psychological QoL was significantly poorer relative to controls in the disease management group. This pattern of results persisted over 1 year. With some exceptions, better overall QoL was reported for light intensity exercise undertaken in group settings, with greater improvement in physical QoL following moderate intensity exercise. The implications for future health care practice and research are discussed.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Disease Management
  • Exercise Therapy*
  • Exercise* / physiology
  • Exercise* / psychology
  • Health Promotion / methods
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Rehabilitation / methods