Table 1

Reviews of physical activity and depression in young people

Author, date and years coveredType of review; number of studies (K)Sample for current analysesExposure variablesTypes of research designMain findingsComments
Larun et al6 1965–2005Meta-analysis K=511–19 yearsVigorous exerciseRCTsThe review assessed vigorous exercise (VIG) vrs no intervention in a general population. VIG had a significant negative effect on depression; ES= −0.66.
VIG v. no exercise for children in treatment: no difference.
VIG v. low intensity exercise for depressed children in treatment: no difference.
Exercise v. psychosocial intervention for depressed children in treatment: no difference.
Few studies included.
Craft and Landers8 Up to 1996Meta-analysis and systematic review K=312–18 yearsPA: aerobic and anaerobicQuasi-experimentalExercise significantly reduced depression among participants with clinical depression and depression resulting from mental illness (including adults). Effect size for young people was small (ES= −0.15).
Review includes varied age groups. Only 3 studies were on young people.
The review is one of the few that examined the effects of chronic exercise on clinically diagnosed depression.
Calfas and Taylor7 Up to 1982Meta-analysis K=1111–21 yearsPA: flexibility training; running; vigorous activityQuasi-experimental and cross-sectional observational34trials available for meta-analysis.
Significant negative relationship between PA and depression (ES= −0.38).
9 of 11 studies showed negative association.
Only 4 effect sizes available for calculation of overall ES.
North, et al9 Up to 1989Meta-analysis K=5<18 yearsPA: aerobic; and muscular strength enduranceVariousHigher levels of exercise significantly associated with lower depression (ES= −0.49) among young people.Only 5 studies involved young people. It was not possible to identify research designs used, intensity or duration of exercise, or type of depression assessed.
  • ES, effect size; PA, physical activity; RCT, randomised controlled trial.