Physical activity and sedentary behavior in people with major depressive disorder: A systematic review and meta-analysis

J Affect Disord. 2017 Mar 1;210:139-150. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2016.10.050. Epub 2016 Nov 29.


Background: Low levels of physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) are independent risk factors for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality in people with major depressive disorder (MDD).

Aims: Investigate levels of PA and SB and their predictors in people with MDD.

Methods: Electronic databases were searched from inception till 04/2016 for articles measuring PA and SB with a self-report questionnaire (SRQ) or objective measure (e.g. accelerometer) in people with MDD. Random-effects meta-analyses and meta-regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Twenty-four eligible studies were identified including 2901 people with MDD (78.4% female, mean age=54 years; range: 21-77 years). People with MDD spent 126.0min (95%CI=91.9-160.1) per day engaging in all types of PA and spent 8.5hours (95%CI=7.51-9.62) during their waking day being sedentary. Compared to controls, people with MDD spent less time in total PA (SMD=-0.25, 95%CI=-0.03 to 0.15) and moderate to vigorous PA (SMD=-0.30, 95%CI=-0.40 to 0.21) and engaged in higher levels of SB (SMD=0.09, 95%CI=0.01-0.18). The proportion of people with MDD not meeting the recommended PA guidelines was 67.8% (n=13 studies), which was higher in studies relying on objective versus self-report measures (85.7% v 62.1%, p=0.04). People with MDD were more likely than controls to not meeting the recommended PA guidelines (OR = 1.50, 95%CI = 1.10–2.10).

Limitations: Heterogeneity was evident in most analyses.

Conclusions: Adults with MDD engage in low levels of PA and high levels of SB. PA and SB are independent predictors of mortality, therefore, future lifestyle interventions targeting both the prevention of SB and adoption and maintenance of PA are warranted.

Keywords: Depression; Depressive symptoms; Exercise; Major depression; Physical activity; Psychiatry; Sedentary behavior.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sedentary Behavior*
  • Self Report
  • Young Adult