What does this rating mean?
There are two main types of exercise; aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, cycling, or playing sports, and improves overall fitness and builds up the heart, circulation and lungs. Anaerobic exercise includes strength training, such as lifting weights or doing push-ups, and high-intensity exercises such as sprinting. These types of exercise help to build up muscle and strength.
More research is needed to understand exactly how exercise might help depression, however there are a number of different ways that it might help:
A large number of studies have looked at the effect of exercise on depression symptoms.
A recent umbrella review of other reviews of studies found that exercise was effective in reducing symptoms of depression in adults who had been diagnosed with depression. This review also found that exercise is effective in reducing symptoms of depression in adults who do not have depression. All types of exercise were found to be effective, but higher intensity exercise was more effective than lower intensity exercise.
A review of studies also found that exercise is similarly effective to anti-depressant medication for reducing symptoms of depression in people with mild to moderate depression. However, more people dropped out of the exercise treatment. A separate review of studies found that adding exercise to usual psychological treatment or anti-depressant medication was more effective than without including exercise.
A separate umbrella review found that supervised physical activity programs may be effective for reducing depression symptoms, but that there was a lack of research about unsupervised exercise.
Exercise can be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression and can be combined with other depression treatments. More high quality research is required to understand which types of exercise might be most beneficial.
Injuries can occur during exercise. Not all types of exercise will be suitable for all types of people, so it is best to talk to your doctor if you’re thinking of starting a new exercise program.
You can exercise just about anywhere.
Exercise physiologists are health professionals who can help you design an exercise program. In some situations their services are available under Medicare Australia. To find help near you, please see the Exercise & Sports Science Australia website.
Exercise can be an effective treatment for depression in adults. Physical activity and exercise can support your general health and wellbeing.
If you are increasing your exercise, if you feel concerned about injuring yourself or if you are over the age of 35 years, talk with your health professional about which type exercise may be best for you.
Last updated and reviewed: 14 August 2023