Ōtautahi – One in nine cases of depression could be prevented if people exercised at recommended levels, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Recommended physical activity levels for the University of Cambridge, UK, research were two and a half hours per week of brisk walking.
Adults meeting the recommended levels had lower risks of depression compared to adults that did no physical activity. Even exercising below the public health recommendations was shown to help with depression, according to the study.
The study involved a review and analysis of 15 prospective studies that included data from more than 191,000 people.
Compared to adults who reported doing no activity, adults who completed half the recommended activity level had an 18 percent lower risk of depression. Adults who achieved the full recommended activity level had a 25 percent lower risk of depression compared to adults who did no physical activity, according to the study.
The study authors concluded that if less active adults had achieved the current physical activity recommendations, 11.5 percent of depression cases could have been prevented.
Depression is the leading cause of mental health–related disease burden and may be reduced by physical activity, but the dose-response relationship between activity and depression is uncertain.
This systematic review and meta-analysis of associations between physical activity and depression suggests significant mental health benefits from being physically active, even at levels below the public health recommendations.
Health practitioners should encourage any increase in physical activity to improve mental health.
Depression is the leading cause of mental health–related disease burden and a major cause of disability worldwide, affecting about 280 million people (pre-covid) and accounting for more than 47 million disability-adjusted life-years in 2019.
Prevention of depression requires effective interventions, including modification of established risk factors.
ExerciseNZ chief executive Richard Beddie says exercise, especially in covid times, relates and helps so much with mental health, including depression and anxiety.
“We need to be a much more active nation. There is no one easy fix, but we need to work together on a solution. There is much lip service to New Zealand being a sporting nation. But the statistics just don’t back this up.
“I am keen to talk to government on the issue. I want to meet the Prime Minister to resolve this terrible health inactivity situation in Aotearoa.”