An hour of weekly exercise can prevent depression, study finds

05 October 2017 12:51

One in five people become depressed at some point in their lives

One in five people become depressed at some point in their lives

Just one hour of exercise each week can help keep depression at bay, a long-term study has found.

Scientists have researched the impact of physical activity on mental health issues and found that depressive symptoms are reduced in adults that work out weekly for at least 60 minutes.

Dr Samuel Harvey, Lead researcher on the project, called the findings "exciting", adding: "We've known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time we have been able to quantify the preventative potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression."

Large-scale health study

The initial study assessed one of the largest ever health surveys undertaken, looking at almost 34,000 Norwegian adults over the course of 11 years.

Participants carrying out no exercise whatsoever over a seven-day period were found to be 44% more likely to develop depression, compared with those exercising just one to two hours each week.

In 12% of participants, increasing exercise to one hour each week is shown to completely prevent symptoms of depression.

Symptoms of depression can include low mood, feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. It can also affect sleep patterns, energy levels and appetite.

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, one in five people become depressed at some point in their lives.

Anyone suffering from a pre-existing mental health condition, such as depression, can protect themselves from unexpected medical costs when travelling overseas by taking out medical travel insurance*.

Broad scope

Findings from the study feature in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Although the research team has yet to pinpoint how exercise impacts on our mood, Dr Harvey believes it's down to a combination of physiological and social benefits.

"These results highlight the great potential to integrate exercise into individual mental health plans and broader public health campaigns," he added.

Dr Harvey thinks there could be "substantial physical and mental health benefits" if the population were to be encouraged to carry out even short workouts.

*World First Travel Insurance are able to cover depression as long as it is under control and there have not been any recent hospital admissions, or trip cancellations due to the condition. Cover will usually exclude bipolar disorder.

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