Laura Webster


Depression is a debilitating mental health condition affecting an estimated 350 million people worldwide (Agudelo et al., 2014; Mutrie, 2000; WHO, 2012).  A diagnosis of major depressive disorder is made when symptoms persist to impair everyday functioning for a period of more than two weeks (American Psychiatric Association, DSM-5, 2013).  There exists a considerable body of literature in support of physical activity programmes as a first-line treatment for sub-threshold and mild depression, and the relevant clinical guidelines reflect this (Biddle, Fox & Boutcher, 2000; Davidson, 2010; NICE, 2009a).  For the current review, MEDLINE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Science Direct and Cochrane Library databases were consulted from 2000-2014 with criteria for inclusion and exclusion.  Thirteen papers were included in total from those concerning the effectiveness of physical activity in treating depression among adults.  Studies included in the current review indicate physical activity to have a positive effect on reducing depressive symptoms among adults with mild depression either as mono-therapy, or when used as an adjunct to conventional treatment.  Lawlor and Hopker (2001) highlight considerable methodological flaws among many trials.  In future, researchers are advised to standardise their methods and practitioners to offer tailored exercise interventions for mild depression in accordance with NICE guidelines.