Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews
Compose Response

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Author Information
First or given name, e.g. 'Peter'.
Your last, or family, name, e.g. 'MacMoody'.
Your email address, e.g.
Your role and/or occupation, e.g. 'Orthopedic Surgeon'.
Your organization or institution (if applicable), e.g. 'Royal Free Hospital'.
Statement of Competing Interests


  • A rapid response is a moderated but not peer reviewed online response to a published article in a BMJ journal; it will not receive a DOI and will not be indexed unless it is also republished as a Letter, Correspondence or as other content. Find out more about rapid responses.
  • We intend to post all responses which are approved by the Editor, within 14 days (BMJ Journals) or 24 hours (The BMJ), however timeframes cannot be guaranteed. Responses must comply with our requirements and should contribute substantially to the topic, but it is at our absolute discretion whether we publish a response, and we reserve the right to edit or remove responses before and after publication and also republish some or all in other BMJ publications, including third party local editions in other countries and languages
  • Our requirements are stated in our rapid response terms and conditions and must be read. These include ensuring that: i) you do not include any illustrative content including tables and graphs, ii) you do not include any information that includes specifics about any patients,iii) you do not include any original data, unless it has already been published in a peer reviewed journal and you have included a reference, iv) your response is lawful, not defamatory, original and accurate, v) you declare any competing interests, vi) you understand that your name and other personal details set out in our rapid response terms and conditions will be published with any responses we publish and vii) you understand that once a response is published, we may continue to publish your response and/or edit or remove it in the future.
  • By submitting this rapid response you are agreeing to our terms and conditions for rapid responses and understand that your personal data will be processed in accordance with those terms and our privacy notice.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Vertical Tabs

Other responses

  • Published on:
    Physical activity will remain ‘overlooked’ in the treatment of depression and anxiety until we focus our research on people referred to mental health services.

    Singh and colleagues’ comprehensive systematic review of meta-analyses (97 reviews of 1039 trials including 128,119 participants) confirms that ‘physical activity (PA) is highly beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety and psychological distress’ with ‘effect size reductions in symptoms of depression (−0.43) and anxiety (−0.42) comparable to or slightly greater than those observed for psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy’.
    This finding has important clinical implications and the authors conclude that PA should be included in public health guidelines as a mainstay approach (i.e. not just as an adjunct to psychological therapy and medication). They also recognise that ‘while the benefit of exercise for depression and anxiety is generally recognised, it is often overlooked in the management of these conditions’ .

    Despite these really impressive results and their important clinical implications, it is unfortunate that the Singh et al review is unlikely to make a significant difference to clinical practice. There are many reasons why physical activity is not used as a first-line intervention for depression and other mental health problems, but one of the problems is that the field has not really addressed an issue I highlighted in a review of the field a quarter of a century ago. The evidence that PA can be an effective stand-alone or adjunctive intervention for a range of mental health problems is diluted amongst the public health/ mental wellbeing st...

    Show More
    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.