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Deterring depression through exercise
October 8, 2017, 5:20 pm

Depression is a very common disorder affecting people globally. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are more than 300 million afflicted by depression around the world. . In the US alone, the economic burden of depression has been estimated at over $200 billion per year.

Doctors prescribe various treatments for depression,, including medication, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy or a combination of these approaches, but often not very successfully.

Now scientists at universities and health institutes in the UK, Norway and Australia, who conducted collaborative studies that examined data from nearly 34,000 people collected over a period of 11 years, found that as little as one hour of exercise each week, regardless of intensity level, could help prevent depression.

As Prof. Harvey explains, "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 preventive potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression."

"These findings," he adds, "are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise - from 1 hour per week - can deliver significant protection against depression."

The researchers analyzed data from one of the largest population studies conducted so far— the Nord-Trøndelag Health Study (HUNT) that took place from 1984 to 1997 in Norway. The team found that those who did not engage in any physical exercise in the HUNT study were 44 percent more likely to develop depression than their peers who exercised for one or two hours each week.

The protective effect of exercise was also observed, regardless of its intensity. "Most of the mental health benefits of exercise are realized within the first hour undertaken each week," explained the research team. "With sedentary lifestyles becoming the norm worldwide, and rates of depression growing, these results are particularly pertinent as they highlight that even small lifestyle changes can reap significant mental health benefits," they added.

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