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The prevelance of depression in older people is high, treatment is
inadequate, it creates a substantial burden and is a public health
priority for which exercise has been proposed as a therapeutic
To estimate the effect of exercise on depressive symptoms among older
people, and assess whether treatment effect varies depending on the
depression criteria used to determine participant eligibility.
Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials of
exercise for depression in older people.
Nine trials met the inclusion criteria and seven were meta-analysed.
Exercise was associated with significantly lower depression severity
(standardised mean difference (SMD) =–0.34, 95% CI –0.52 to –0.17),
irrespective of whether participant eligibility was determined by
clinical diagnosis (SMD =–0.38, 95% CI –0.67 to –0.10) or symptom
checklist (SMD =–0.34, 95% CI –0.62 to –0.06). Results remained
significant in sensitivity analyses.
Our findings suggest that, for older people who present with clinically
meaningful symptoms of depression, prescribing structured exercise
tailored to individual ability will reduce depression severity.
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