It's already well known that there's a major link between exercise and depression: Past research has shown that active people have a significantly lower risk of developing the condition and that working out is an effective treatment for it.
Now, for the first time ever, a study has shed light on the amount of physical activity required each week to optimally fight depression—and it's way lower than you'd probably guess.
After monitoring both the exercise levels and depression and anxiety symptoms of 33,908 Norwegian adults during an 11-year period, researchers found 12 percent of depression cases could be prevented completely with only one hour of exercise each week. That's right: one hour. And, though a 12 percent success rate doesn't reflect an overwhelming majority, it's totally enough evidence to support spending an hour a week at the gym (in case you needed another reason to do so).
"These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise—from one hour per week—can deliver significant protection against depression."
"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,” said lead author Samuel Harvey, PhD, in a press release. "These findings are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise—from one hour per week—can deliver significant protection against depression."
Although researchers still aren't sure why exercise has a protective effect against depression, Dr. Harvey has a general idea: "We believe it is from the combined impact of the various physical and social benefits of physical activity," he said.
So, no excuses: Everyone (yes, even the busiest of lady bosses!) can spare at least an hour a week to better their mental health. And if that means doing some multitasking and binge-watching 30 Rock while you're on the treadmill at the gym, so be it.
Originally published October 5, 2017; updated September 28, 2018.
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