Research Reports - The effectiveness of physical exercise as an intervention to reduce depressive symptoms following traumatic brain injury

Sophie A. Perry, Rudi Coetzer & Christopher W. N. Saville

Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 2018. DOI: 10.1080/09602011.2018.1469417


Alongside the obvious health benefits, physical exercise has been shown to have a modest anti-depressant effect for people in the general population. To the authors’ knowledge, there are no current literature reviews or meta-analyses available exploring this effect for people with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). A systematic review of intervention studies utilising physical exercise and mood outcome measures for a TBI population was performed in November 2016. Baseline and outcome data were extracted for the nine studies which met the inclusion criteria. Effect sizes were calculated for the three controlled trials and six uncontrolled trials and entered into the meta-analysis. Consistent with research in non-brain injury populations, the current meta-analysis identified a small to medium effect size of physical exercise on reducing depressive symptoms in people with a TBI. This would support further rigorous trials to provide additional evidence for the efficacy of physical exercise interventions for people with TBI. Limitations of the current meta-analysis and clinical implications are discussed.

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