One Hour of Exercise A Week Could Prevent Depression, Study Finds

The study found that people who didn”t exercise were 44% more likely to suffer from depression than those who did an hour or two a week.

This new research suggests that a little exercise weekly could reduce the risk of depression.

A new study that examined data from nearly 34,000 people has found that as little as 1 hour of exercise each week, regardless of intensity, can help prevent depression.

Depression is a very common disorder, affecting about 6.7 percent of adults in the United States each year. The economic burden of this disease was estimated at $ 210.5 billion in 2010 alone. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than   300 million people live with the disorder. In Spain it affects 5% of the population, it is usually accompanied by symptoms of anxiety.

Treatment for depression

Treatments for depression generally include medications, psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy, or a combination of these approaches.

Recently, the Australian nonprofit group called Black Dog Institute, which supports people with mood disorders, launched a month-long campaign encouraging people to exercise. They suggest on their website that regular physical activity can help prevent and treat depression.

This is supported by research by scientists at the Black Dog Institute in collaboration with colleagues from other institutions around the world, including universities and health institutes in the UK, Australia and Norway.

A study that lasted 11 years

The study, led by Professor Samuel Harvey of the Black Dog Institute, analyzed data collected from 33,908 Norwegian adults who were followed up over an 11-year period.

As Prof. Harvey explains: “We have known for some time that exercise has a role to play in treating symptoms of depression, but this is the first time that we have been able to quantify the preventive potential of physical activity in terms of reducing future levels of depression «.

“These findings,” he adds, “are exciting because they show that even relatively small amounts of exercise – 1 hour per week – can offer significant protection against depression.”

“If we can find ways to increase the population”s level of physical activity, even by a small amount, this is likely to bring substantial benefits to physical and mental health.”

Purpose of the study on depression and exercise

The purpose of this study was to address the following topics:

1) Whether exercise provides protection against newly emerging depression and anxiety

2) And if so, the intensity and amount of exercise required to obtain protection

3) And, finally, the mechanisms underlying any association.


Regular free time exercise was associated with reduced incidence of future depression, but not anxiety. Most of this protective effect occurred at low exercise levels and was observed regardless of intensity.

After adjusting for confounders, the population attributable fraction suggests that, assuming the relationship is causal, 12% of future cases of depression could have been avoided if all participants had engaged in at least 1 hour of physical activity. Weekly. The social and physical benefits of exercise explain a small proportion of the protective effect.

Previously proposed biological mechanisms, such as alterations in parasympathetic vagal tone, do not appear to play a role in explaining protection against depression.


Regular exercise during leisure time of any intensity provides protection against future depression, but not anxiety.

Relatively modest changes in exercise levels in the population can have significant mental health benefits and prevent a substantial number of new cases of depression.

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