Exercise as a therapeutic modality for the prevention and treatment of depression

James A. Blumenthal, Alan Rozanski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While maintaining an active lifestyle and engaging in regular exercise are known to promote cardiovascular (CV) health, increasing evidence has emerged to indicate that these lifestyle behaviors also can promote psychological health and well-being. This has led to research to determine if exercise can serve as a potential therapeutic modality for major depressive disorder (MDD), which is a leading cause of mental-health impairment and overall disability worldwide. The strongest evidence to support this use comes from an increasing number of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) that have compared exercise to usual care, placebo controls, or established therapies in healthy adults and in various clinical populations. The relatively large number of RCTs has led to numerous reviews and meta-analyses, which generally have been concordant in indicating that exercise ameliorates depressive symptoms, improves self-esteem, and enhances various aspects of quality of life. Together, these data indicate that exercise should be considered as a therapeutic modality for improving CV health and psychological well-being. The emerging evidence also has led to a new proposed subspecialty of “lifestyle psychiatry”, which promotes the use of exercise as an adjunctive treatment for patients with MDD. Indeed, some medical organizations have now endorsed lifestyle-based approaches as foundational aspects of depression management, with adoption of exercise as a treatment option for MDD. This review summarizes research in the area and provides practical suggestions for the use of exercise in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProgress in Cardiovascular Diseases
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Cardiac rehabilitation
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle medicine


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