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Light Exercise Could Reduce Depression Risk

Just a smidge of weekly exercise could be the golden ticket to a happier you, according to research which found exercising for as little as one hour a week was associated with a lower risk of developing depression. Published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the study included 33,908 healthy adults without symptoms of mental illness or limiting physical health conditions at the beginning of the study. Researchers followed the participants for eleven years, collecting data on their exercise frequency and intensity and measures of depression and anxiety. After controlling for outside factors that could contribute to depression or anxiety, these findings emerged:

  • Regular exercise, regardless of its intensity, was associated with a reduced risk of developing depression.
  • Calculations based on the results suggest that, for this study population, exercising for at least one hour a week could have prevented 12% of cases of depression.
  • Exercising didn’t appear to affect the risk of developing anxiety.
  • The full mechanism of its action remains a mystery, since the depression-preventing effect of regular exercise was not entirely explained by its social and physical health benefits, and was not attributable to its impact on nervous system function.

So, if you don’t regularly exercise, getting out for at least an hour a week is a great place to start. Once you meet that goal, set your sights on the regimen recommended by the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week plus muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.

Source: American Journal of Psychiatry

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