Physical Activity as Treatment for Depression in Recreation Therapy: Transitioning from Research to Practice




Depression, exercise, physical activity, recreational therapy, self-determination theory, self-efficacy theory


Depression is a common primary and secondary condition among recreational therapy clients, and is a threat to engagement and outcomes of recreational therapy. Recreational therapists are able to respond to depression through physical activity. A substantial amount of recent research has uniformly identified that there exist significant positive effects of physical activity on both clinical depression as well as depression among non-clinical populations. The research evidence in depression treatment and depression prevention supports physical activity as an intervention. This article reports types of exercise known to alleviate depression, the neuroanatomical structures affected by physical activity, and the effects of these structure changes on depressive symptoms. In addition, issues related to motivation regarding physical activity engagement as well as ways to respond to such issues using self-efficacy theory and self-determination theory are discussed. With an awareness of this current information, recreational therapists could integrate physical activity more intentionally into the APIED process to help their clients manage depression.

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