Effects of physical exercise in people with epilepsy: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Published:November 15, 2022DOI:


      • Exercise is a feasible therapy for people with epilepsy.
      • The quality of life of people with epilepsy can be improved through exercising.
      • Exercise does not reduce the frequency of seizures in people with drug resistant epilepsy.



      Studies suggest that physical exercise lead to improvements in the psychosocial dimension, associated comorbidities as well as to a higher quality of life (QoL) in people with epilepsy. However, there is a need to provide evidence-based guidelines for its prescription. Therefore, this review aimed to systematically evaluate and meta-analyze the available data on the potential effects of physical exercise training programs in people with epilepsy.


      Four electronic databases (MEDLINE/PubMed, PEDro, SPORTDiscuss and Scopus) were searched systematically from their inception until April 2022 for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), comparative studies and non-controlled studies that provided information regarding the effects of physical exercise training programs on people with epilepsy. The studies’ methodological quality assessment was performed using the PEDro, the MINORS and the Quality Assessment Tool for Before–After Studies with No Control Group scales. For the meta-analysis, inverse variance or generic inverse variance was use to report mean difference or standardized mean difference for continuous data and their 95% confidence intervals (CI). Heterogeneity was assessed with the Chi-squared test and I2 test.


      After removing duplicated studies, 82 results were retrieved by the literature search and 14 were eligible for full text search. Finally, 14 studies with a methodological quality ranging from good to low quality met the inclusion criteria. Totally, 331 people with epilepsy were evaluated. Significant changes between preand post-intervention results in the exercise intervention groups were observed for QoL, fitness level, psycho-affective and neurocognitive outcomes. Findings from the meta-analysis indicated that moderate exercise led to a non-significant decrease (p = 0.08, Chi-squared test) in seizure frequency (SMD 0.33 95% CI 0.04; 0.70), while a significant effect of exercise was observed on QoL with a mean improvement of 4.72 percentage points (95% CI 0.58; 8.86, p = 0.03).


      Improvements on QoL, fitness level, psycho-affective and neurocognitive outcomes can be achieved through exercise training in people with epilepsy. Altogether, the findings suggest that people with epilepsy can benefit from exercising.


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