Physical activity associated with improved depressive symptoms in children and adolescents

A recent study found that physical activity interventions were linked to a significant reduction in depressive symptoms in children and adolescents, indicating that physical activity may be an effective treatment for depression.

The second most prevalent mental disorder among the pediatric population, depression afflicts an estimated 6.2 percent of children and adolescents globally, according to the study published in JAMA Pediatrics. For the investigation, a team of scientists at the University of Hong Kong in China sought to better understand the efficacy of physical activity interventions in children and adolescents. To do so, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of studies on the topic leading up to February 2022.

The meta-analysis included 21 studies involving a total of 2,441 participants, half male, half female, with a mean age of 13. After adjusting for heterogeneity, risk of bias, and publication bias, researchers found participants who engaged in physical activity interventions had significant reductions in depressive symptoms compared to control groups. In addition, the analysis suggested that participants older than 13 with mental illness and/or depression had greater reductions in depressive symptoms than younger patients.

According to the study’s authors, these results indicate that physical activity interventions may be an effective alternative or adjunct treatment for depression in pediatric populations. Future investigations, the authors concluded, should consider how physical activity parameters like frequency, duration, and supervision impact clinical outcomes.