Depression is a very common health issue which affects millions of people worldwide. As a matter of fact, depression is the second most common cause of disability on a global scale accounting for lost time, decreased quality of life, and high treatment costs.
Many people see their health care providers because they are experiencing symptoms of depression and need treatment. The vast majority of people will receive an anti-depressant or another prescription drug to treat their depression. Did you know that there are other alternative ways to treat depression?
Recently, some new research has given millions of patients hope in the management of this crippling mental illness. A recent study which analyzed 25 major studies involving participants from the ages of 11-100 years old indicated that even modest amounts of physical activity (less than two and a half hours of walking per week) was associated with a decreased risk of developing depression.
“It was a little surprising that 25 of the studies found this protective effect, and that’s really promising,” said lead author, George Mammen. “From a population health perspective, promoting physical activity may serve as a valuable mental health…strategy in reducing the risk of developing depression.”
This is in fact the case if you look at the evidence regarding the effects of physical activity upon the development of depression and the severity or frequency of symptoms. Not only is exercise protective from ever experiencing depression, but if you already experience it, regular exercise can lessen your symptom burden!
The studies the researchers examined looked at the relationship between physical activity and the development of depression over several time intervals. The follow-up periods varied from one to 27 years and the results of the analysis indicated that 25 of the studies showed a significant decrease in the development of depression in those who were the most physically active. Although the studies varied in the degree of benefit offered from exercise, one factor was evident.
The more the participants exercised, the greater the degree of protection afforded to them. The current study indicated that it didn’t matter what type of exercise was completed as long as it was a given duration. Even 20-30 minutes of walking per day was shown to be somewhat protective in the development of depression.
The most important feature that this study really reveals is how physical activity performed over time can influence the development of depression. In the studies examined which looked at the association between exercise and the development of depression over time, it was shown that decreasing the volume of exercise over time was associated with a greater risk of developing depression while maintaining or increasing activity levels protected against the development of depression!
Efforts designed to get people more physically active will not only help them achieve their physical health goals but will help prevent depression and improve their quality of life.
Brauser, D., “Even a Little Physical Activity May Prevent Depression,” Medscape web site; http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/814042, last accessed November 12, 2013.
Mammen, G., et al., “Physical Activity and the Prevention of Depression: A Systematic Review of Prospective Studies,” American Journal of Preventive Medicine. November 2013; 45(5): 649-657.