Physical exercise in major depression: Reducing the mortality gap while improving clinical outcomes

Martino Belvederi Murri, Panteleimon Ekkekakis, Marco Magagnoli, Domenico Zampogna, Simone Cattedra, Laura Capobianco, Gianluca Serafini, Pietro Calcagno, Stamatula Zanetidou, Mario Amore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Major depression shortens life while the effectiveness of frontline treatments remains modest. Exercise has been shown to be effective both in reducing mortality and in treating symptoms of major depression, but it is still underutilized in clinical practice, possibly due to prevalent misperceptions. For instance, a common misperception is that exercise is beneficial for depression mostly because of its positive effects on the body (“from the neck down”), whereas its effectiveness in treating core features of depression (“from the neck up”) is underappreciated. Other long-held misperceptions are that patients suffering from depression will not engage in exercise even if physicians prescribe it, and that only vigorous exercise is effective. Lastly, a false assumption is that exercise may be more harmful than beneficial in old age, and therefore should only be recommended to younger patients. This narrative review summarizes relevant literature to address the aforementioned misperceptions and to provide practical recommendations for prescribing exercise to individuals with major depression.

Original languageEnglish
Article number762
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Depression
  • Efficacy
  • Exercise
  • Mortality
  • Physical activity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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