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Interventions to Reduce Depression among Older Adults: Community-Based Exercise Interventions

The community-based exercise interventions assessed in this review provide individual or group exercise classes for older adults. These classes may focus on:

  • Strengthening
  • Endurance
  • Functional training

An older adult is defined as 60 years of age or older, and depression outcomes include changes in depression scale scores.

Summary of Task Force Recommendations and Findings

The Community Preventive Services Task Force finds insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of exercise interventions for reducing depression in older adults. Although the studies reviewed generally found that exercise interventions were associated with improved scores on depression symptom scales, none of the studies reviewed reported results for depressed subjects, so it is unclear whether clinically significant changes can be expected in these populations.

Results of the Systematic Review

Nine studies qualified for the review

  • Four studies reviewed found that exercise interventions were associated with improved scores on depression symptom scales for intervention group participants compared to participants in control conditions.
  • None of the studies reported results for depressed subjects, so the clinical significance of these improvements could not be determined.

These results were based on a systematic review of all available studies that met review criteria by a team of specialists in systematic review methods, and experts in research, practice, and policy from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington School of Medicine.


Frederick JT, Steinman LE, Prohaska T, et al. Community-based treatment of late life depression—an expert panel informed literature review. Am J Prev Med 2007;33(3):222–49.

Steinman LE, Frederick JT, Prohaska T, et al. Recommendations for treating depression in community-based older adults. Am J Prev Med 2007:33(3):175-81.

Snowden M, Steinman L, Frederick J. Treating depression in older adults: challenges to implementing the recommendations of an expert panel. Prev Chronic Dis 2008;5(1):A26.

Read other Community Guide publications about Improving Mental Health and Addressing Mental Illness in our library.


The findings and conclusions on this page are those of the Community Preventive Services Task Force and do not necessarily represent those of CDC. Task Force evidence-based recommendations are not mandates for compliance or spending. Instead, they provide information and options for decision makers and stakeholders to consider when determining which programs, services, and policies best meet the needs, preferences, available resources, and constraints of their constituents.

Sample Citation

The content of publications of the Guide to Community Preventive Services is in the public domain. Guide to Community Preventive Services. Interventions to reduce depression among older adults: community-based exercise interventions. Last updated: MM/DD/YYYY.

Review completed: February 2008