Exercise has antidepressant effects on the very young

Exercise has antidepressant effects, at least in youngsters. This was revealed by a large meta-analysis that considered a total of 2441 adolescents with an average age of 14 years. An intervention based on a physical activity program has been shown to have significant antidepressant effects in young adults. The meta-analysis was published in JAMA Pediatrics by Park Seo, of the University of Hong Kong.

Depression is the second most common mental disorder among children and adolescents, yet only a small percentage of individuals in this age group seek or receive specific treatment for this disorder. Physical activity interventions are promising as an alternative or complementary approach to clinical treatment of depression.

Young people examined in this data review received a clinical diagnosis of depression. Depending on the initial study, a somewhat significant effect of physical activity on depressive symptoms was noted. The greatest reduction in depressive symptoms was achieved by participants over 13 years of age and with a diagnosis of mental illness and/or depression, with the intervention lasting no more than 12 weeks overall with three weekly sessions of physical activity.

The authors concluded that physical activity interventions can be used to reduce depressive symptoms in children and adolescents. The frequency, duration and supervised physical activity sessions with the most beneficial antidepressant effect remain to be determined in future studies.

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