Decreases in exercise strongly linked to higher depression risk

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Exercise has long-been recommended as a cognitive-behavioral therapy for patients of depression.

In a new study from the University of California of San Diego, researchers found that in the COVID-19 pandemic, the average steps of participants declined from 10,000 to 4,600 steps per day and rates of depression increased from 32% to 61%.

They also found short-term restoration of exercise does not meaningfully improve mental well-being.

At the same time, the results clearly showed that those who maintained physical exercise throughout the pandemic were the most resilient and least likely to suffer from depression.

In the study, the team examined college students who answered repeated surveys about their well-being and time use over the course of a semester.

From March to July 2020, the team found their depression rates skyrocketed by 90%, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Among the people, sleep increased by 25 to 30 minutes per night, time spent socializing declined by more than half (less than 30 minutes per day), and screen time more than doubled to five or more hours per day.

The researchers found large declines in physical activity during COVID-19 were most strongly associated with higher rates of depression.

Physical activity minutes translate to about 10 minutes in which the heart rate is raised enough to burn at least 1.5 times as many calories as it does at rest.

Those who experienced declines of one to two hours of physical activity per day were most at risk for depression during the pandemic, while participants who were able to maintain their daily habits were at the lowest risk.

The findings suggest that disruption to physical activity is a leading risk factor for depression during this period.

If you care about depression, please read studies about this depression drug could shut down the brain if used too much and findings of this nutrient supplement may help lower depression.

For more information about depression treatment and prevention, please see recent studies about long-term use of depression drug may cause addiction and results showing new ‘warning sign’ of early depression.

The study is published in PNAS. One author of the study is Sally Sadoff.

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