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The Powerful Benefits of Exercise for Anxiety and Depression

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

There was a very large study published recently that looked at the “Effectiveness of physical activity Interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress”. Read below for an overview of this umbrella review (a systematic review of systematic reviews) published in 2023. There were 97 reviews were included! The populations included were diverse including healthy adults, folks with mental health disorders, and those with chronic diseases. You can find the full text here.



A softball athlete performing agility and running drills with sports physical therapist coaching her while using blazepods for reaction.
Athlete performing agilities with blazepods

Why is this study important?

This study is hugely important because of the significant impact, both health related and financial, that mental health issues place on our society.


· 1 in 8 (970 million) people worldwide were affected by a mental health disorder in 2019

· 44% (almost 1 in 2!) will experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime

· Annual global costs currently around $2.5 trillion are estimated to be at $6 trillion by 2030


We need help now more than ever as:

· COVID-19 pandemic has been associated with increased rates of psychological distress, around 35-38% worldwide


We need other ways to manage this besides psychotherapies and pharmacotherapies (medications).



What are the key takeaway points from the study?


· Physical activity is effective in reducing mild to moderate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress compared with usual care.

· The largest benefits were seen in people with depression, HIV, kidney disease, pregnant and postpartum women, and healthy individuals.

· Higher intensity physical activities were associated with greater improvements in symptoms


“Physical activity is highly beneficial for improving symptoms of depression, anxiety, and distress across a wide range of adults populations!”


a physiotherapist or sports physical therapist coaching an active adult female through phases of a pull-up


Let's follow the guidance of this study. They write in their conclusion that, “Physical activity should be a mainstay approach in the management of depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.”


As always, please seek out help for any mental health issues you may be dealing with. And if you need help figuring out how to start exercising safely, don't hesitate to reach out.


Talk soon,

Dr. Sieara

Physical Therapist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Cert. in Dry Needling

P: 828-808-3704





an infographic for the results of a study on the effects of exercise on depression, anxiety, and distress

Singh B, et al. Effectiveness of physical activity interventions for improving depression, anxiety and distress: an overview of systematic reviews. Br J Sports Med. 2023.

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