Originally published Jan. 22, 2023 by ADDitude Magazine.
By Melanie Wolkoff Wachsman
Physical activity can significantly reduce depressive symptoms in children and adolescents, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
The meta-analysis of 21 studies involving 2,441 participants (47% boys and 53% girls) between the ages of 11-19 found that physical activity may help alleviate depressive symptoms in young patients. Twelve of the studies also demonstrated the benefits of physical activity for participants with a somatic or psychiatric disorder such as depression, obesity, ADHD, and diabetes.
The findings revealed that physically active teenagers experienced more notable reductions in depressive symptoms than did younger participants. “It is possible that younger children are sufficiently active to be desensitized to additional physical activity, whereas their older and more sedentary counterparts might be more responsive to the intervention,” researchers said.
After analyzing the frequency and duration of physical activity, researchers determined that engaging in three sessions of physical activity lasting at least 30 minutes yielded the greatest improvement in depressive symptoms.
“Depression is the second most prevalent mental disorder among children and adolescents, yet only a small proportion seeks or receives disorder-specific treatment,” researchers said. “Physical activity interventions hold promise as an alternative or adjunctive approach to clinical treatment for depression.”