Even mild and moderate exercise can lower the risk of depression, finds a new data analysis

Multiple studies and experts have suggested that consistent movement, even if mild, can build a strong foundation for a healthy and fit life.

Not only does it help you stay toned, improve sleep, keep your bones strong, and even aid in skin and hair health, but also fights anxiety and depression, leading to better mental health, says a new data analysis.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, analysed 15 studies with over 190,000 people to determine how much exercise was needed to reduce depression. The findings of analysis go on to prove that exercise is not just for attaining aesthetic fitness goals, but also for holistic health. While it is true that if you are feeling depressed or anxious, it can be even harder to get up and move, but doing that is the key to better mental health.

The analysis found that adults who did activities equivalent to 1.25 hours of brisk walking per week had an 18 per cent lower risk of depression compared with those who did not exercise. Additionally, moving up to an “activity volume equivalent to 2.5 hours of brisk walking per week was associated with 25 per cent lower risk of depression,” as per the study. It also mentioned that “most benefits are realised when moving from no activity to at least some”.

“Our findings therefore have important new implications for health practitioners making lifestyle recommendations, especially to inactive individuals who may perceive the current recommended target (of exercise) as unrealistic,” the authors wrote in the study.

Dr Kedar Tilwe, who is the consultant psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital, Mulund and Hiranandani, Vashi, concurs with the findings of the study, saying that physical exercise can be of great value in helping people cope with lethargy, boredom, and even mental fatigue as “exercise is often associated with the release of Endorphins and other mood-elevating physiological changes within one’s body.”

As a result, “it also helps boost self-esteem and build a positive self-image. In fact, regular exercise can be therapeutic to a certain extent, especially when dealing with depression of mild severity. Combining exercises along with behavioral activation techniques and mindfulness or yoga exercises can prove beneficial in improving adherence to therapy as well as improving the efficacy of the interventions in battling depression as well,” the doctor says.

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