A growing body of evidence suggests that exercise is one of the most effective prevention and treatment strategies for depression.
A recent study, conducted over the course of 11 years, was designed to address whether exercise provides protection against new-onset depression and anxiety and if so, the intensity and amount of exercise required to gain protection and, lastly, the mechanisms that underlie any association.
Researchers evaluated and followed 33,908 adults, which were selected on the basis of having no symptoms of common mental disorder or limiting physical health conditions.
The researchers observed that regular leisure-time exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression but not anxiety. The majority of this protective effect occurred at low levels of exercise and was observed regardless of intensity. After adjusting for confounding variables, the results suggests that 12% of future cases of depression could have been prevented if all participants had engaged in at least 1 hour of physical activity each week. The social and physical health benefits of exercise explained a small proportion of the protective effect.
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