Effect of exercise interventions on the depression of older adults. A meta-analysis

Zichao Chen *, Zhusheng Wu *, Sichong Zheng *, Chenyu Liu **, Qianjin Wu *** and Shanshan Li *

(*) School of Economics, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China
(**) University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Surrey, GB
(***) School of Physical Education, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China


Chen, Z., Wu, Z., Zheng, S., Liu, C., Wu, Q., Li, S. (2022). Effect of exercise interventions on the depression of older adults. A meta-analysis. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 53(6), 543-568. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2022.53.543


Existing studies have shown that exercise interventions can reduce depres- sive symptoms among older adults. This study aimed to propose a set of exercise interventions to reduce the depressive symptoms of older adults aged 65 or over through a systematic analysis of the published studies. The meta-analysis included 28 randomised controlled trials and intervention control trials from 22 previous studies related to the effect of exercise interventions on the depression of older adults. The results were evaluated by calculating standardised mean differences and 95 % confidence intervals. The risk of bias and heterogeneity of the included studies were assessed. Sensitivity and subgroup analyses were carried out to find out sources of heterogeneity further. The results showed that exercise interventions contributed moderately to reducing depression among older adults (standardised mean difference = -0.35; 95% CI = -0.58 to -0.13; P < .01), especially those diag- nosed with depression. The most effective interventions were those focussing on aerobic exercises or mind-body exercises of low intensity. Based on the results, in- terventions between 13 and 24 weeks, more than 3 times per week and shorter than 45 minutes each session are recommended. More research is encouraged to clari- fy the effect of different exercise interventions on depression among older adults.

Keywords: Exercises interventions, Depression, Older adults, Physical activity