Send to

Choose Destination
Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2017 Apr;135(4):285-295. doi: 10.1111/acps.12690. Epub 2017 Jan 22.

A systematic review of cognitive effects of exercise in depression.

Author information

Department of Brain and Behavioral Science, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
Laboratory of Adapted Motor Activity, Department of Public Health, Experimental Medicine & Forensic Science, University of Pavia, Pavia, Italy.
WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health and Service Evaluation, Section of Psychiatry, University of Verona, Verona, Italy.



The aim of the present systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the impact of physical exercise on cognitive symptoms in depressed adult patients.


Systematic literature search was performed in Web of Science™ and CINAHL from inception to August 2016. Two reviewers independently selected randomized trials evaluating the effect of exercise on cognitive functions in patients with a validated diagnosis of depression. Outcome measures included global cognition and different cognitive domains (speed of processing, attention/vigilance, working memory, verbal and visual memory, and reasoning).


Eight trials met inclusion criteria (637 patients). A fixed-effects model showed absence of beneficial effect on global cognition (Hedges' g = 0.07, 95% CI -0.08 to 0.24, I = 0%) as well as on specific cognitive domains. Sensitivity analyses did not show an impact of exercise in studies with shorter intervention duration compared to longer trials (between group heterogeneity Q = 3.564, df = 1, P = 0.059), single session per week compared to multiple sessions (Q = 2.691, df = 1, P = 0.101) and low exercise intensity compared with moderate/high intensity (Q = 2.952, df = 1, P = 0.086).


Our meta-analysis did not observe a substantial benefit of physical exercise on cognitive symptoms in depression.


cognition; depressive disorder; exercise; meta-analysis

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center