Table 2

Reviews of physical activity and anxiety 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=611–19 yearsVIGRCTsVIG had a small-to-moderate effect on anxiety (ES=−0.48).
There was no statistically significant difference between VIG and low intensity exercise on anxiety.
There was no statistically significant difference between exercise and psychosocial interventions on anxiety.
Few studies and many with methodological weaknesses.
Wipfli et al15 Up to Jan 2006Meta-analysis K=3<18 yearsPA: aerobic; anaerobic; combinedRCTsExercise group showed small reductions in anxiety v. other forms of anxiety treatment (ES = −0.19).8 studies were included in the full meta-analysis (all ages) that were acute studies. It was not possible to tell if the 3 studies on those <18 years included those in acute exercise RCTs.
Unclear why only three interventions were found two years after Larun et al analysed six.
Calfas and Taylor7 Up to 1982Meta-analysis and systematic review K=2011–21 yearsPA: (Fitness training): flexibility training; running; vigorous activityQuasi-experimental and cross-sectional observational3 trials available for meta-analysis.
Small relationship between PA and anxiety (ES=−0.15).
Duration of PA was not mentioned; moderate PA was not adequately explained.
Petruzzello, et al14 1960–1989Meta-analysis K=3< 18 yearsPA: programmes (aerobic, anaerobic)Longitudinal designChronic exercise significantly associated with less trait anxiety (ES= −0.47).Not clear on methods for studies with young people.
  • ES, effect size; PA, physical activity; RCT, randomised controlled trial; VIG, vigorous exercise.