Regular exercise can help protect against future depression

A team of researchers, led by the Black Dog Institute, found that regular exercise — just one hour a week — may help tackle and prevent depressive symptoms.

The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, involved 33,908 Norwegian participants, all healthy adults, whose symptoms of depression and anxiety were under observation for over 11 years. The primary goal for researchers was to determine if exercise can prevent new-onset depression and anxiety, and if so, the intensity needed for its beneficiary effects.

Researchers found that in 12 percent of cases with symptoms of depression, participants could have prevented such symptoms if they had exercised regularly for a minimum of one hour a week.

“These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise — from one hour per week – can deliver significant protection against depression,” said Samuel Harvey, co-author of the study.

The results also showed that participants with no reported exercise routine were 44% more likely to develop depressive symptoms when compared to those who exercised for at least an hour each week.

Although the exact understanding of how exercise helps with depression requires further research, researchers believe the combination of physical and social benefits it provides may reduce future cases of depression.

“Relatively modest changes in population levels of exercise may have important public mental health benefits and prevent a substantial number of new cases of depression,” the study concluded.