Physical Activity in Depressed Elderly. A Systematic Review

Gioia Mura 1, Mauro Giovanni Carta1, 2, *
1 Department of Public Health and Clinical and Molecular Medicine, University of Cagliari, Italy
2 Centre for Liason Psychiatry and Psychosomatics, University of Cagliari Via Ospdale, 09123 Cagliari, Italy

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© Mura and Carta; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Centre for Liason Psychiatry and Psychosomatics, University of Cagliari Via Ospdale. 09123 Cagliari Italy; Tel +39 335499994; Fax: +39 070 6093498; E-mail:



exercise may reduce depressive symptoms both in healthy aged populations and in old patients diagnosed with MDD, but few specific analysis were conducted on the efficacy of exercise as an adjunctive treatment with antidepressants, which may be probably more useful in clinical practice, considered the high prevalence of treatment resistant depression in late life, the low cost and safety of physical activity interventions.


to establish the new findings on the effectiveness of exercise on depression in elderlies, with particular focus on the efficacy of the exercise as an adjunctive treatment with antidepressants drug therapy.


the search of significant articles was carried out in PubMed/Medline with the following key words: “exercise”, “physical activity”, “physical fitness”, “depressive disorder”, “depression”, “depressive symptoms”, “late life”, “old people”, and “elderly”.


44 papers were retrieved by the search. Among the 10 included randomized controlled trials, treatment allocation was adequately conceived in 4 studies, intention-to-treat analysis was performed in 6 studies, but no study had a double-blinded assessment. We examined and discussed the results of all these trials.


in the last 20 years, few progresses were done in showing the efficacy of exercise on depression, due in part to the persistent lack of high quality research, in part to clinical issues of management of depression in late life, in part to the difficult to establish the real effectiveness of exercise on depressive symptoms in elderlies. However, there are some promising findings on physical activity combined with antidepressants in treatment resistant late life depression.

Keywords: : Exercise, Physical activity, Depression, elderly, Late life, Mood disorder, Systematic review.