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Press release

Physical Activity as an Effective Therapeutic Strategy for Improving Psychosocial Outcomes in Children and Adolescents

Washington, DC | February 12, 2024

A studyopens in new tab/window in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP)opens in new tab/window, published by Elsevier, found that physical activity (PA) interventions are effective in reducing psychological symptoms across diverse populations of children and adolescents, including those with various clinical conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), cancer, depression, and obesity.

The researchers conducted an umbrella review, a type of systematic review that attempts to summarize the findings of prior meta-analyses on the breadth of impact of a particular intervention, or a comparison of different intervention for a particular condition. In this umbrella review, the authors summarized the evidence from 18 meta-analyses to assess the efficacy of physical activity (PA) interventions on psychosocial outcomes in children and adolescents struggling with different conditions, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, cancer, cerebral palsy, chronic respiratory diseases, depression, neuromotor impairment, and obesity.

Drawing from these 18 meta-analyses, the authors compiled data from 118 studies with a total of 21,232 children and adolescent participants. The authors found that PA interventions had small effects on psychosocial outcomes, but that many of the included studies were of low to moderate quality, limiting their ability to make definitive conclusions.

The research team emphasized the importance of including psychosocial outcomes in future randomized studies of PA interventions in children and adolescents, regardless of their physical and psychological conditions or disability. This study adds valuable insights to the ongoing discourse on the role of physical activity in promoting psychosocial well-being in younger populations.

Notes for editors

The article is "Umbrella Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: Physical Activity as an Effective Therapeutic Strategy for Improving Psychosocial Outcomes in Children and Adolescents," by Marianna Purgato, PsyD, PhD, Camilla Cadorin, PhD, candidate, Eleonora Prina, PhD, candidate, Madalena Cabral Ferreira, MD, Lidia Del Piccolo, PhD, Markus Gerber, PhD, Mark J.D. Jordans, PhD, Giovanni Ostuzzi, MD, PhD, Justin Richards, PhD, Doriana Rudi, MSc, Francesca Vitali, PhD, Samuele Cortese, MD, PhD, Federico Schena, MD, PhD, Corrado Barbui, MD ( It appears in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 63 issue 2 (February 2024), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Marianna Purgato, PhD at [email protected].


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryopens in new tab/window (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

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Marianna Purgato

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