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Physical activity and exercise as a treatment of depression: Evidence and neurobiological mechanism

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

Brendon Stubbs, Felipe Schuch

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNeurobiology of Depression
Subtitle of host publicationRoad to Novel Therapeutics
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9780128133330
ISBN (Print)9780128133347
Published1 Jan 2019

King's Authors


People with depression experience increased levels of obesity and cardiovascular disease, which may contribute to the premature mortality in this population. While antidepressants and psychotherapeutic interventions can help improve depressive symptoms, their impact on physical health is limited. Physical activity (PA) and exercise are frontline preventive treatments for cardiovascular and metabolic disease. Emerging evidence also demonstrates that PA and physical fitness are important modifiable risk factors for the onset of depression. Moreover, robust evidence now exists demonstrating that exercise can improve depressive symptoms in those with subthreshold depressive symptoms and major depressive disorder. Exercise is well-accepted by people with depression, with relatively low levels of dropout from interventions. A number of hypotheses have been postulated to determine the antidepressant effect of exercise including the anti-inflammatory impact of PA, hippocampal neurogenesis, the impact on brain-derived neurotrophic factor, and psychosocial mechanisms (e.g., improving self-esteem).

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