Physical exercise could profoundly reduce the risk of depressive episodes

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For individuals feeling low in energy and mood, increasing the amount of physical exercise to several hours a week, at a minimum, could profoundly reduce the risk of depression, new research suggests.

As part of a study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, researchers racked the genomic and health data of an estimated 8,000 participants from the Partners Healthcare Biobank.

The main objective of the study, as published in the journal Depression and Anxiety, was to further examine the effects of physical exercise on depressive episodes, regardless of genetic risk factors. Among participants, surveys were issued regarding their fitness and wellness routines, like physical exercise.

During the collection of electronic health records, researchers focused on patients diagnosed with a form of depressive disorder and any genetic risks for such disorders.

In the findings, the participants who initiated more physical exercise were at a reduced risk of developing depression, regardless of genetic risk. In participants with the highest indication of inherited depression, increased physical activity was also shown to decrease symptoms.

All-in-all, the participants experienced a 17 percent reduction in developing a new episode of depression during their weekly physical activities.

“On average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes,” said Karmel Choi, the study’s lead author.

“Our findings strongly suggest that, when it comes to depression, genes are not destiny and that being physically active has the potential to neutralize the added risk of future episodes in individuals who are genetically vulnerable.”