(CNN) — Get up and get moving: Even the smallest doses of physical activity, such as brisk walking, can significantly reduce the risk of depression, according to a new data analysis.
“Most of the benefits are gained when moving from no activity to at least some activity,” the study authors wrote.
Recommended levels of physical activity in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), include any aerobic activity at moderate levels (such as brisk walking) for 2 .5 hours a week, and a training of the main muscle groups twice a week.
Alternatively, a person may choose to exercise at a vigorous level, such as running, for 1.25 hours per week, along with the same amount of strength training.
Moderate to vigorous exercise is good for us, according to the CDC. It improves sleep, lowers blood pressure, protects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, reduces stress, improves mood, and fights anxiety and depression.
But in today’s busy world, it’s hard for many people to go for a run or visit the gym. Combined with depression, the motivation to exercise decreases even more, experts say.
It all adds up
The meta-analysis published Wednesday in the academic journal JAMA Psychiatry analyzed 15 studies involving more than 190,000 people to determine the amount of exercise needed to reduce depression.
According to the study, adults who engaged in activities equivalent to 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18% lower risk of depression, compared to people who did not exercise.
Going to a “volume of activity equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week was associated with a 25% lower risk of depression,” the authors said.
According to the study, the benefits were greater when the person went from being a couch potato to adding movement to their day. However, exercising above recommended levels did not provide any additional benefit.
“Thus, our findings have important new implications for health professionals making lifestyle recommendations, especially sedentary individuals who may perceive current (exercise) recommendations as unrealistic,” the authors wrote. .
A study published in 2018 found similar results: People who exercised had about 43% fewer days of poor mental health. “Even walking just three times a week seems to give people better mental health than not exercising at all,” study author Adam Chekroud, an associate professor of psychiatry at Yale University, said at the time.
Exercising in 45-minute sessions three to five times a week was the most beneficial for improving mental health, according to the 2018 study. However, even doing housework reduced days of poor mental health by about 10 %, according to the study.
A study published in 2020 found that even light exercise helped protect minors against developing depression. The 2020 study found that 60 minutes of light movement a day at age 12 was linked to a median 10% reduction in depression risk at age 18.
The types of movement considered included running, cycling, and walking, as well as household activities, painting, or playing an instrument.