Cut depression risk in half in fewer than 20 minutes a day

As I was looking through the latest research, wondering what I was going to share with you next, I came across an interesting bit of information.

Apparently, depression is the second major risk factor for disease in this country.

But according to a new study, there may be a very simple way to curb that risk.

Researchers in Canada conducted a systematic review of 30 different studies and found even a little bit of physical activity can cut risk of depression in people of any age. The analysis looked at subjects from the age of 11 all the way up to 100 years old.

And it showed that as little as 2.5 hours of low intensity movement like walking could ward off depression.

Using data from the 7 studies that measured amounts of weekly physical activity participation, the researchers found that exercising more than 150 minutes per week was associated with a 19% to 27% decreased risk of developing depression.

Not that I’m surprised. Being active has so many benefits to our physical health. So the fact that it can boost mental health is only natural.

Interestingly, four of the studies showed that physically active women were less likely to develop depression than men. The researchers think this could be because of the way men and women exercise. (Women often participate the social aspects of physical activity through groups and classes. Whereas men are more likely to exercise alone.)

In another notable twist, even getting less than 150 minutes of physical activity was linked to a decrease in depression risk ranging from eight to 63 percent. (That’s compared to people who don’t get any exercise at all.)

I’d call that a pretty significant benefit for less than 20 minutes a day.

And still another study showed that more than 30 minutes of daily physical activity–the official recommendation–can reduce the odds of depression by as much as 48 percent.

I’m sure you see where I’m going with all of this.

At the end of the day, exercise could be an incredibly effective public health strategy for fighting depression. And it might just help to curb this nation’s excessive reliance on anti-depressant medications.

So if you have any symptoms of depression (and honestly, who doesn’t at this time of the year?) physical activity is something safe and effective that you can do to boost your mood.

And it’s something that you should be doing, anyway.

So please just get up and take a walk. Every day. Especially now that the holidays are over, a simple after dinner stroll could be all you need to tide your mood over until spring.

“Physical activity and the prevention of depression: a systematic review of prospective studies.” Am J Prev Med. 2013 Nov;45(5):649-57.
26th European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ENCP) Congress.