Exercise and physical activity in mental disorders

Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2011 Nov:261 Suppl 2:S186-91. doi: 10.1007/s00406-011-0254-y. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


Exercise (EX) and physical activity (PA) have been shown to prevent or delay the onset of several mental disorders and to have therapeutic effects in different groups of psychiatric disorders. This review focuses on studies investigating EX as therapeutic intervention in anxiety disorders, affective disorders, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and substance use disorders. Despite EX being discussed as a potential therapy for several decades, adequately powered randomized, controlled trials are sparse in most disorder groups. Nevertheless, evidence points toward disorder-specific benefits that can be induced by EX/PA. Mechanisms of the therapeutic effects of EX/PA are summarized, including metabolic and physiological as well as psychological aspects. Finally, implications for research and therapeutic practice are illustrated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / prevention & control
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / prevention & control
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Mental Disorders / psychology*
  • Mood Disorders / prevention & control
  • Mood Disorders / psychology
  • Motor Activity
  • Schizophrenia / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology