Exercise, yoga, and meditation for depressive and anxiety disorders

Am Fam Physician. 2010 Apr 15;81(8):981-6.


Anxiety and depression are among the most common conditions cited by those seeking treatment with complementary and alternative therapies, such as exercise, meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yoga. The use of these therapies is increasing. Several studies of exercise and yoga have demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness superior to no-activity controls and comparable with established depression and anxiety treatments (e.g., cognitive behavior therapy, sertraline, imipramine). High-energy exercise (i.e., weekly expenditure of at least 17.5 kcal per kg) and frequent aerobic exercise (i.e., at least three to five times per week) reduce symptoms of depression more than less frequent or lower-energy exercise. Mindful meditation and exercise have positive effects as adjunctive treatments for depressive disorders, although some studies show multiple methodological weaknesses. For anxiety disorders, exercise and yoga have also shown positive effects, but there are far less data on the effects of exercise on anxiety than for exercise on depression. Tai chi, qigong, and meditation have not shown effectiveness as alternative treatments for depression and anxiety.

Publication types

  • Patient Education Handout
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Tai Ji / psychology
  • Yoga / psychology*