Evidence Summary (Updated 2022)
Expert consensus opinion, via a workshop on 12th April 2018 and subsequent online consultation agrees that physical activity can reduce stress levels and agitation. Exercise may improve physiological stress responses and reduce the levels of cortisol.(10,12) Aerobic activities were found to produce a significant reduction in cortisol levels (SMD= -0.76; 95%CI -1.55 to 0.03) compared to strength training which was found to have no significant difference.(35) In addition to exercise type having a differing effect, differences were also noted in the effects of exercise frequency and the type of cortisol measurement, overall additional high quality studies are required.(35)
Even a single exercise session can improve mood, reduce stress level and improve energy level.(10)
Quality of Evidence
Grade C – Low quality
Strength of recommendation
Grade 1 – Strong recommendation
There is expert opinion and limited evidence supporting the use of physical activity to reduce stress levels and decrease agitation in depression.
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