Even a few minutes of light daily exercise can reduce the risk of depression

LIMERICK, Ireland —There are some days when many of us just want to stay in bed overnight or stay glued to the couch indefinitely. While relaxing can certainly be a good time from time to time, researchers at the University of Limerick have discovered another reason why everyone should prioritize getting some exercise, especially older individuals. Their study finds that modest amounts of physical activity each day can reduce the risk of depression.

This research, conducted in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin, reports that a “dose” of just 20 minutes a day (five days a week) of moderate-intensity physical activity (brisk walking, for example) showed an association to a lower risk of depressive symptoms and likelihood of major depression.

Depression, of course, is an increasingly common condition among the elderly. Meanwhile, depression is also linked to a number of significant risk factors for major chronic conditions such as cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and even an increased risk of death and suicide.

Overall, estimates show that depression causes 5 to 10 per cent of all disease burden in Europe. Meanwhile, the economic cost of the depression in the United States alone is approximately more than $210.5 billion! Therefore, focusing on potentially easy and low-cost health and lifestyle solutions that could reduce the risk of depression is a top priority for both scientists and doctors.

old couple walking
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Recent studies have concluded that moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) may benefit those at risk for depression.

However, there’s disagreement about how protective physical activity is for depression overall, or how that might vary among adults with the disease, says Dr. Eamon Laird, lead author of the paper and postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Physical Education. and Sport Sciences at UL, in an undergraduate version.

For this work, we used 10 years of data from the Irish Longitudinal Study On Aging which included information on depression, MVPA and other key health-related variables such as disease, lifestyle factors and socio-economic status.

We sought to identify the lowest dose of MVPA associated with protection against major depression and depressive symptoms and the extent to which this varied based on the presence of chronic disease, continues Dr. Laird.

Additional key findings reported by researchers:

  • A dose of physical activity equivalent to about 20 minutes a day of MVPA (brisk walking) five days a week was associated with a 16% lower rate of depressive symptoms and 43% lower odds of major depression.
  • The researchers noted a dose-response effect; more MVPA led to more protection from depression.
  • More specifically, doses equivalent to ~30 min per day of MVPA had an association with a 7% lower risk of depressive symptoms and 44% lower odds of major depression.
  • Doses of about 60 minutes a day of MVPA were associated with a 16% lower risk of depressive symptoms and 41% lower odds of major depression.
  • Doses of ~120 minutes per day of MVPA were associated with a 23% lower chance of depressive symptoms and a 49% lower chance of major depression.
  • All of these findings remained significant even after the study authors controlled for relevant health-related factors such as biological sex, education, age, smoking and alcohol habits, obesity, antidepressant use, and weather.
  • The results were essentially the same for older adults, whether with or without a chronic disease.
Older woman walking
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This study is highly relevant given the high prevalence of depression in our growing population of older adults. Physical activity in doses lower than the World Health Organization’s recommendations for general health may offer protection against depressive symptoms and major depression: At a minimum, aim to engage in 20 minutes a day of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week, with greater benefits seen at higher doses, Dr. Laird reports.

Try making it a routine with hobbies or activities you enjoy, and try doing this with others as social interactions, particularly with activity, can also have mental health benefits. Remember that it is a component and that nutrition and a healthy lifestyle will also provide additional benefits beyond physical activity.

The current findings have significant implications in showing that significant antidepressant benefits appear to be associated with doses of physical activity lower than the current World Health Organization recommendations for general health, although higher doses were associated with stronger protection, concludes Dr . Matthew Herring, a Senior Lecturer and Research Fellow in the Physical Activity Research Center for Health at UL and principal investigator of this HRB-funded research.

We are clearly not advocating less physical activity among the elderly population, but the findings suggest that the greatest improvements in protection against depression among the elderly may be achieved by engaging inactive older adults in physical activity even at doses lower than those recommended for health. general.

The study is published in JAMA.

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