Evaluation of the benefits of exercise on cognition in major depressive disorder

Tracy L. Greer, Jennifer L. Furman, Madhukar H. Trivedi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Cognitive impairment is increasingly recognized as a significant symptom in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD). While exercise is already recommended in many treatment guidelines for patients with MDD and has been shown to improve cognition in other disorders (e.g., Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, schizophrenia), limited research is available evaluating the effect of exercise on cognition in MDD. Methods: We provide a narrative review of existing literature regarding the effect(s) of exercise on cognition across several neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases, and particularly in MDD, with specific emphasis on study design and methodology that may impair adequate synthesis of the results. We also describe mechanisms by which exercise may improve cognition in depression and other brain disorders. Results: Of existing studies with MDD, data are equivocal, as some are supportive of improved cognition, whereas others demonstrate no benefit. Several limitations were noted, including insufficiently-powered designs, variability in interventions examined (e.g., aerobic, anaerobic, mind-body) or control groups, lack of attention to the status of baseline cognitive impairment, and/or heterogeneity across outcome measures and clinical characteristics. Conclusions: While preliminary results suggest the potential for exercise as a beneficial treatment or augmentation strategy for impaired cognition in MDD, the aforementioned limitations necessitate further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalGeneral Hospital Psychiatry
StatePublished - Nov 2017


  • Aerobic Exercise
  • Anaerobic Exercise
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Cognitive Improvement
  • Depression
  • Physical Activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of the benefits of exercise on cognition in major depressive disorder'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this