Depression: exercise effective in older adults

Access to the full content of this site is available only to registered healthcare professionals. Register to read more


  • A meta-analysis shows that exercise improves depressive symptoms in adults aged ≥60 y.

Study design

  • The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials (n=138 received treatment; 129 control patients; age, ≥60 y).
  • Funding: Study funded by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES).

Key results

  • Exercise had a large and significant effect on depression (standardized mean difference, −0.90; 95% CI, −0.29 to −1.51), with a fail-safe number of 71 studies.
  • Significant effects were found for mixed aerobic and anaerobic interventions, at moderate intensity, that were group-based, that utilized mixed supervised and unsupervised formats, and in patients without other clinical comorbidities.


  • The meta-analysis included a small number of studies with a small overall sample size.

Why this matters

  • Previous meta-analyses may have underestimated the benefits of exercise because of publication bias. The researchers advocate that exercise be considered as a routine component of the management of depression in older adults.