One hour of exercise a week can prevent depression, study finds

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In a recent study from the University of New South Wales, researchers found that regular exercise of any intensity can prevent future depression — and just one hour can help.

They found even small amounts of exercise can protect against depression, with mental health benefits seen regardless of age or gender.

In the study, the team analyzed 33,908 Norwegian adults who had their levels of exercise and symptoms of depression and anxiety monitored over 11 years.

They found that 12% of cases of depression could have been prevented if participants undertook just one hour of physical activity each week.

People who reported doing no exercise at all at baseline had a 44% increased chance of developing depression compared to those who were exercising one to two hours a week.

These findings showed that even relatively small amounts of exercise — from one hour per week — can deliver big protection against depression.

The team says the results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns.

If researchers 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.

But the team also says that these benefits did not carry through to protecting against anxiety, with no association identified between level and intensity of exercise and the chances of developing the disorder.

They hope that with sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results can be useful as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits.

If you care about depression, please read studies about women with this health problem twice as likely to suffer depression and findings of lower dose of this depression drug can effectively reduce pain.

For more information about depression and your health, please see recent studies about a major cause of depression in older people and results showing that high smoking dependence linked to depression.

The study is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. One author of the study is Associate Professor Samuel Harvey.

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