Study Says Exercise Can Independently Reduce Risk Of Depression

Physical activity comes with a bunch of health benefits. Exercise can keep your heart, respiratory system, as well as joints healthy. It enables weight loss and maintenance and also gives you lean muscles. Another well-known pro of exercising is that it boosts mood and reduces stress.

However, the link between exercise and depression has always come with a lot of questions. Does exercise reduce depression or does simply being depressed limit one’s movement by confining him to his couch? Researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health studied this relationship between exercise and depression to learn which one effects the other.

The team found that the risk of depression decreases with movement. This doesn’t have to be strenuous exercise; just everyday chores that require one to move also work. The lead author of the study, Karmel Choi said, “We saw a 26% decrease in odds for becoming depressed for each major increase in objectively measured physical activity.”

What Did The Study Reveal?

This latest research on how exercise can reduce depression has been published in the JAMA Psychiatry journal. Researchers used genetic data to determine the answer to whether depression restricts physical activity or exercise reduces the risk of depression.

For the purpose of the study, two genetic data pools of several many people were analyzed using the Mendelian randomization technique. It was found that exercise alone could take the risk of depression down. People who were more active physically had a substantially lower risk of developing major depressive disorder.

However, this only applied when exercise was properly measured using a tracking device rather than on the grounds of people’s self-reports. Tracking devices give more accurate measurements of how much physical activity a person has performed, also taking into account daily chores, taking flights of stairs, and the like.

As per this research, all times of movement can keep the risk of depression down. Where for one, physical activity can mean a strenuous workout session, for others it can be swimming, walking or jogging. While going to the gym is good, just getting up from the couch and stretching or walking for a few minutes is also helpful.

For keeping depression at bay though, at least 15 minutes of high-intensity workout per day or half an hour of low-intensity exercise are required. Just staying physically active in little ways like doing the dishes, cleaning the room, and the like are also good.

Key Takeaway

A new study shows that even the most random physical activity, such as performing daily chores or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, can lessen the risk of developing depression significantly. As per this research, activity trackers are better at noting the amount of physical activity performed by a person than self-reports.

What’s more, at least half hour of low-intensity physical movement or 15 mins of high-intensity exercise are needed for lowing depression risk.