Exercise improves physical and psychological quality of life in people with depression: A meta-analysis including the evaluation of control group response

Psychiatry Res. 2016 Jul 30:241:47-54. doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2016.04.054. Epub 2016 Apr 26.


Exercise has established efficacy as an antidepressant in people with depression. However, few meta-analyses have assessed the effects of exercise across different domains of Quality of Life (QoL) in people with depression. Furthermore, there has been no previous meta-analysis of control group response in relation to QoL in exercise trials for depression. Randomized Clinical Trials(RCTs) were initially identified from a Cochrane review, and those including QoL assessments were included in the analysis. Search of major electronic databases were conducted to identify RCTs that compared the exercise effects on QoL versus control condition in people with depression. A random effects meta-analysis was employed to evaluate the Standardized Mean Difference (SMD). Six RCTs were included. Exercise significantly improved physical and psychological domains and overall QoL. Effects on social relationship and environment domains were not significant. No significant control group response was found for any domain or overall QoL. Exercise can be considered as a therapeutic strategy to improve physical and psychological domains and overall QoL of people with depression, with no effect evident across the social and environmental domains. The lack of improvement among control groups reinforces the role of exercise as a treatment for depression with benefits to QoL.

Keywords: Depression; Exercise; Meta-analysis; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Humans