Skip to main content

In a compelling synthesis of the latest research, a recent article published in The BMJ, “Effect of exercise for depression: systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials” (Noetel et al., 2024), underscores the multifaceted benefits of exercise, not only for physical health but also for mental well-being. This study, a network meta-analysis of 218 randomised controlled trials encompassing over 14,000 participants, offers robust insights into how different types of exercise can significantly impact mood and mental health, particularly in the context of depression.

The findings are striking: a broad spectrum of exercises, including walking, jogging, yoga, and strength training, were effective in improving mood and mitigating symptoms of depression. Notably, the impact of exercise was comparable to that of cognitive behavioural therapy and, in some instances, superior to antidepressants. Notably, the benefits were not confined to high-intensity workouts; even low-intensity activities like walking and yoga yielded meaningful improvements.

The article highlights a crucial aspect: the relationship between exercise intensity and its effectiveness. While a dose-response association was observed, indicating that higher intensity might lead to more significant benefits, the key takeaway is that any form of exercise, regardless of intensity, is beneficial. This inclusive perspective allows individuals at various fitness levels and preferences to engage in physical activity to enhance their physical and mental health.

Furthermore, the study revealed that the effectiveness of exercise was not significantly influenced by the severity of depression at baseline, suggesting that exercise can be a valuable tool for individuals with varying degrees of mood challenges. Interestingly, while group exercises were generally as practical as individual exercises, yoga was an exception, showing greater effectiveness in a group setting. On the other hand, strength training and the combination of aerobic and strength exercises were more impactful when performed individually.

These insights are particularly relevant for primary care clinicians who can now confidently recommend exercise as a standalone treatment option for adults with mild to moderate depression, alongside psychotherapy and antidepressants. The final treatment choice should be tailored to individual preferences and consider any barriers to access.

As we recognise the challenges that people with depression face in terms of fatigue, low energy, and poor motivation, it’s crucial to make exercise programs accessible and tailored to individual needs. Health services and administrations are vital in providing resources for individualised and supervised exercise programs.

The London Osteoporosis Clinic’s commitment to enhancing bone and general health aligns perfectly with these findings. We invite you to explore and book complimentary strength training, yoga, and Pilates sessions through our Calendly link. These sessions boost bone health and uplift your mood and overall well-being. Join us in embracing the transformative power of exercise for a healthier, happier life.