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In adults with neurologic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, supervised exercise training reduces depressive symptoms

Adamson BC, Ensari I, Motl RW Effect of exercise on depressive symptoms in adults with neurologic disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015;96:1329-38.

Review question

In people with neurologic disorders, does exercise training reduce depressive symptoms?


Neurologic disorders affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves in the body. Neurologic disorders include multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, and other disorders.

People with neurologic disorders often become depressed or have depressive symptoms. Depression is more than just being sad and may get worse if not treated. The symptoms include feeling sad, losing interest in things you like to do, having trouble thinking of concentrating, and feeling anxious or restless.

Exercise can help reduce depressive symptoms in some people and may help those with neurologic disorders.

How the review was done

The researchers did a systematic review, searching for studies that were published in English up to May 2014.

They included 26 randomized controlled trials with 1,324 people over 17 years of age.

The key features of the trials were:

  • people had a neurologic disorder (most had multiple sclerosis);
  • some people also had depression;
  • exercise training included 1 or more of aerobic exercise, resistance training, balance training, yoga, qigong, or other physical exercise;
  • exercise training was supervised, mostly moderate intensity, and done at least weekly and sometimes daily for between 4 weeks and 12 months; and
  • exercise training was compared with usual care, a wait list, attention control, or another treatment.

What the researchers found

Exercise training reduced depressive symptoms. The effect was small to medium, on average, with some people benefiting more than others.


In adults with neurologic disorders such as multiple sclerosis, supervised exercise training reduces depressive symptoms.


Randomized controlled trials
Studies where people are assigned to one of the treatments purely by chance.
Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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