A new study led by The Black Dog Institute in Australia shows that an hour of exercise per week can protect people against depression.
Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study monitored the levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety of 33,908 Norwegian adults for 11 years.
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The researchers found that 12% of cases of depression could have been avoided if participants undertook 60 minutes of physical activity each week.
KEY FACTS: DEPRESSION
(World Health Organization)
Depression is a common mental disorder.
Worldwide, over 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression.
Depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, and is a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease.
At its worst, it can lead to suicide.
Nearly 800 000 people die due to suicide every year.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds.
"These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns,” said lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from Black Dog Institute and University of New South Wales.
“If we can find ways to increase the population's level of physical activity even by a small amount, then this is likely to bring substantial physical and mental health benefits."
They also found that people did zero exercise all at baseline had a 44% increased chance of developing depression compared to those who were exercising one to two hours a week.
The benefits, however, did not carry through to protecting against anxiety, with no association identified between level and intensity of exercise and the chances of developing the anxiety.
“With sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results are particularly pertinent as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits.”