Physical Activity 3 Times Per Week May Reduce Symptoms of Depression in Children and Adolescents

The benefits of physical activity may be greater for children and adolescents with clinical depression or depressive symptoms who may develop anxiety and other disorders in adulthood.

Physical activity interventions can reduce symptoms of depression in children and adolescents, according to findings published in . JAMA open network. This intervention may have a positive impact on the biology, psychology, and psychosocial behavior of young individuals.

Researchers aren’t sure why physical activity has antidepressant effects, but one hypothesis is that physical activity may increase the bioavailability of brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, which help reduce symptoms of depression. It suggests that there is

“Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise, is good for children…[and] Increasing levels of physical activity can improve executive function, which is severely impaired in young people with depression,” the study authors wrote.

These childhood depressive symptoms associated with social dysfunction, poor mental health, poor physical health, and suicide can also predict psychiatric disorders as adults. Sixty-seven percent of these children will develop complete syndrome depressive or anxiety disorders as adults.

Two independent investigators performed a meta-analysis of 21 different studies involving 2441 participants with a mean age of 14 years. The researchers aimed to learn more about the association between physical activity and depressive symptoms in children and adolescents.

The meta-analysis also looked to examine participant- and trial-related characteristics that moderate effective treatment. The primary outcomes were depressive symptoms measured at the end of the intervention period and final follow-up using validated depression rating scales.

Researchers observed that physical activity interventions reduced symptoms of depression. The results showed that adolescents over the age of 13 benefited more from physical activity, but “increased amounts of physical activity may not necessarily result in significant reductions in depressive symptoms. There is,” the study’s authors wrote. “Three weekly physical activity sessions and less than 12 weeks of intervention provided greater benefits for depressive symptoms compared with other frequencies and durations.”

Many of the studies conducted their interventions in school settings, resulting in meta-analyses recognizing the potential benefits of structured physical education programs in primary and secondary schools.

Although there appears to be an association between physical activity and depression, its effects may enhance the effects of antidepressants. However, there is not enough evidence to support this claim.

This study contains several limitations, one of which is that the researchers did not screen the quality of the study. Furthermore, researchers did not use the most rigorous study design and reporting of characteristics, nor were they able to control for confounding variables.

Only 50% of depression in children is properly diagnosed, and data suggests that 80% of children and adolescents may not receive adequate medical care. Nearly 90% of these children and adolescents develop comorbid psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

“Further research is needed to explain whether and how these mechanisms moderate the effects of physical activity, and whether these changes are also present in younger populations,” said the authors. are writing.


Recchia, Francesco, Bernal, Joshua, Fong, Daniel et al. Physical activity interventions to alleviate depressive symptoms in children and adolescents. JAMA PediatricsPublished online January 3, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2022.5090

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