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5MinuteConsult Journal Club

Exercise and Suicidal Ideation; What is the relationship?


J Affect Disord. 2018 Jan 1;225:438-448. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.08.070

Study Summary/Outcomes

In the last 20 years, suicide has increased in the US by over 30%. It remains the leading cause of death for teens and second for pre-teens and adults through age 30.

A recent meta-analysis of observational studies looked at the influence exercise had on suicidal ideation (SI) and found regular exercise correlated with a reduced SI risk (OR = 0.87, 95%CI = 0.76–0.98). What counted as exercise? It varied greatly in the included studies, but anything was better than nothing.

Start by asking your patients what sort of activities they like to do: walk, stretch, bike, hike, lift weight, etc. Then ask patients when in their day they could add a small amount of that kind of exercise. To help improve compliance, ask the patient to track the days they complete their exercise, and bring their logs in at the follow up visit.


For patients with depression and dysthymia, in addition to obtaining CBT and taking medication, ask how they might add even a small amount of new activity every day to both improve their overall health and lower their risk for suicidal ideation.

More from 5MinuteConsult

Diseases & Conditions: Suicide

Patient Handouts: Dysthymia

Contributed by Frank J. Domino, July 19, 2023