Little bit of exercise can ward off depression, study shows

WASHINGTON — You don’t even have to break a sweat — regular exercise of any intensity can make it less likely you’ll develop depression if you’re active for at least an hour a week, according to research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

An international team of researchers evaluating more than 11 years of data on 33,908 Norwegian adults found that protection against depression and other mental health benefits resulted from even small amounts of exercise regardless of age or gender.

The study determined that 12 percent of depression cases could have been prevented by just one hour of physical activity per week. Also, people who reported doing no exercise at all had a 44 percent higher chance of developing depression compared to people exercising one to two hours a week.

“We are still trying to determine exactly why exercise can have this protective effect, but we believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity,” lead author Associate Professor Samuel Harvey from Black Dog Institute and University of New South Wales said in a news release.

“Most of the mental health benefits of exercise are realized within the first hour undertaken each week,” said Harvey.

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