May is mental health awareness month. As many runners can attest, a good run can immediately boost your spirits. In addition, several studies show that exercise can help treat some forms of mild-moderate depression. However, a recent study suggests that exercise may actually help prevent depression.
The study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that exercise may prevent depression. The study included nearly 34,000 Norwegian adults without symptoms of depression or anxiety at the start of the study and followed participants over 11 years (1984-1997). Researchers examined how many hours and with what intensity participants exercised and collected data regarding the development of signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety.
The results showed that those participants who reported doing no exercise at all had a 44% increased likelihood of being diagnosed with depression compared to those who exercised 1-2 hours a week. That exercise was of mild-moderate exertion, not over-the-top all-out effort. Participants who exercised were as likely as those who did not exercise to develop anxiety.
This study is important because it studied participants without depression or anxiety at the start of the study and followed them over time. The study has a large sample size and was controlled for other variables that may have impacted the development of depression and anxiety such as socio-economic status, BMI, substance use, and new-onset physical illness. Of note, the study was performed in Norway, which may limit how the results can be applied to other countries with different mental health resources.
If you are currently experiencing depression or anxiety, remember that it is important to seek help from a trusted mental health professional.
Do you need some mood-boosting exercise opportunities? Get 2 the Core can help develop a plan that is right for you!