Cognitive problems are a common presentation in depression. The TREAD (treatment with exercise augmentation for depression) study showed improvements in cognitive function with exercise and dose-response effect in specific executive function and working memory21. A review by Archer et al found that both executive function and working memory can improve with exercise and that sedentary activity can promote cognitive decline1.
Quality of evidence
Strength of recommendation
There is moderate evidence that physical activity improves cognitive function particularly memory and executive function.
- Archer T, Josefsson T, Lindwall M. Effects of physical exercise on depressive symptoms and biomarkers in depression. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(10):1640-1653.
- Singh NA, Clements KM, Fiatarone MA. A randomized controlled trial of the effect of exercise on sleep. Sleep. 1997;20(2):95-101.
- Reid KJ, Baron KG, Lu B, Naylor E, Wolfe L, Zee PC. Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Med. 2010;11(9):934-940.
- McKercher C, Patton GC, Schmidt MD, Venn AJ, Dwyer T, Sanderson K. Physical activity and depression symptom profiles in young men and women with major depression. Psychosom Med. 2013;75(4):366-374.
- Chalder M, Wiles NJ, Campbell J, et al. Facilitated physical activity as a treatment for depressed adults: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2012;344:e2758.
- Searle A, Calnan M, Lewis G, Campbell J, Taylor A, Turner K. Patients’ views of physical activity as treatment for depression: a qualitative study. Br J Gen Pract. 2011;61(585):149-156.
- Fox KR. The influence of physical activity on mental well-being. Public Health Nutr. 1999;2(3A):411-418.
- Knapen J, Vancampfort D, Moriën Y, Marchal Y. Exercise therapy improves both mental and physical health in patients with major depression. Disabil Rehabil. 2015;37(16):1490-1495.
- Cooney GM, Dwan K, Greig CA, et al. Exercise for depression. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013(9):CD004366.
- Schuch FB, Vancampfort D, Rosenbaum S, et al. Exercise for depression in older adults: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials adjusting for publication bias. Rev Bras Psiquiatr. 2016;38(3):247-254.
- de Souza Moura AM, Lamego MK, Paes F, et al. Comparison Among Aerobic Exercise and Other Types of Interventions to Treat Depression: A Systematic Review. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2015;14(9):1171-1183.
- Nyström MB, Neely G, Hassmén P, Carlbring P. Treating Major Depression with Physical Activity: A Systematic Overview with Recommendations. Cogn Behav Ther. 2015;44(4):341-352.
- Wegner M, Helmich I, Machado S, Nardi AE, Arias-Carrion O, Budde H. Effects of exercise on anxiety and depression disorders: review of meta- analyses and neurobiological mechanisms. CNS Neurol Disord Drug Targets. 2014;13(6):1002-1014.
- Rosenbaum S, Tiedemann A, Sherrington C, Curtis J, Ward PB. Physical activity interventions for people with mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Clin Psychiatry. 2014;75(9):964-974.
- Schuch FB, Vancampfort D, Richards J, Rosenbaum S, Ward PB, Stubbs B. Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias. J Psychiatr Res. 2016;77:42-51.
- Schuch FB, Vancampfort D, Rosenbaum S, Richards J, Ward PB, Stubbs B. Exercise improves physical and psychological quality of life in people with depression: A meta-analysis including the evaluation of control group response. Psychiatry Res. 2016;241:47-54.
- Puetz TW. Physical activity and feelings of energy and fatigue: epidemiological evidence. Sports Med. 2006;36(9):767-780.
- Brené S, Bjørnebekk A, Aberg E, Mathé AA, Olson L, Werme M. Running is rewarding and antidepressive. Physiol Behav. 2007;92(1-2):136-140.
- Leventhal AM. Relations between anhedonia and physical activity. Am J Health Behav. 2012;36(6):860-872.
- Yeh SH, Lin LW, Chuang YK, et al. Effects of music aerobic exercise on depression and brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels in community dwelling women. Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:135893.
- Greer TL, Grannemann BD, Chansard M, Karim AI, Trivedi MH. Dose-dependent changes in cognitive function with exercise augmentation for major depression: results from the TREAD study. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2015;25(2):248-256.
- Krogh J, Saltin B, Gluud C, Nordentoft M. The DEMO trial: a randomized, parallel-group, observer-blinded clinical trial of strength versus aerobic versus relaxation training for patients with mild to moderate depression. J Clin Psychiatry. 2009;70(6):790-800.
- Bhui KS, Dinos S, Stansfeld SA, White PD. A synthesis of the evidence for managing stress at work: a review of the reviews reporting on anxiety, depression, and absenteeism. J Environ Public Health. 2012;2012:515874.