Exercise for Depression in Older Adults

Key Points

  • Physical activity is helpful in managing depression among older adults and can give the mind and body “feel good” effects.
  • Physical activity that is planned is called exercise.
  • Activities of daily living such as cleaning, gardening and walking, as well as exercise like swimming, running, and lifting weights are all types of physical activity. Activities that mix endurance (e.g., walking) and strength training (e.g., lifting weights) can be especially helpful for late-life depression.
  • Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do to treat mild, moderate, and severe cases of depression. Combining exercise with psychotherapy or antidepressant treatment can also be very helpful.
  • Exercising with others is better than exercising alone because it can give you social benefits too.
  • Please talk with your family doctor when starting a new exercise routine.

Disclaimer: Information in this pamphlet is offered ‘as is’ and is meant only to provide general information that supplements, but does not replace the information from your health provider. Always contact a qualified health professional for further information in your specific situation or circumstance.

For More Information See:


  • Rhyner, K. T., & Watts, A. (2016). Exercise and depressive symptoms in older adults: A systematic meta-analytic review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 24(2), 234-246. doi: 10.1123/japa.2015-0146
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Download: Fact Sheet: Alternative Treatments for Depression in Older Adults

Last Updated: May 2020