Exercise is effective for fighting chronic depression: study

Short bouts of exercise may help reduce symptoms of chronic depression, according to one study.

The study, published Monday in JAMA Network Open, found that when people over 50 who suffer from conditions often linked to depression like diabetes, heart disease and chronic pain exercised, the activity reduced their depressive symptoms.

The research, which followed more than 4,000 Irish adults with an average age of 61 for a decade, found that if adults suffering from conditions related to depression exercised at least 20 minutes a day, five times a week, the their symptoms improved.

However, people in the study who had depression but no accompanying chronic illness needed moderate to vigorous exercise for two hours a day to relieve symptoms. There was a dramatic improvement in depressive symptoms for those participants who did, according to the study’s lead authorEamon Laird, a researcher at the Physical Activity for Health Research Center at the University of Limerick in Ireland.

Woman's arms outstretched in exercise.
The amount of exercise needed to reduce depressive symptoms varies if the person has a chronic condition.
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Woman's head in hands looking sad
Millions of people suffer from depression.
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Study participants were from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging and were assessed every two years.

The researchers administered questionnaires about their physical activity and exercise levels before assessing their depressive symptoms. Those with severe symptoms and those who had suffered a major depressive episode within the past 12 months were classified as having major depression.

Examples of symptoms from the questionnaire included: I had trouble keeping my mind on what I was doing; My sleep was restless; I felt that I could not shake the sadness even with the help of my family and friends; etc., Laird told CNN.

Laird said the study is the first (long-running) longitudinal study of its kind to study depression in people with and without a chronic disease and to understand what the lowest minimum dose of exercise is before symptoms of depression subside. ease yourself.

The higher the dose of physical activity, the greater the mental health benefits for depression, Laird said.

Man and woman with kettlebells.
They found a correlation between exercise and depressive symptoms.
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The study found that people who exercised for 20 minutes a day, five days a week had a 16% lower rate of depressive symptoms compared to the 43% risk faced by those who didn’t exercise at all.

Unfortunately, the authors also noted that the overall rate of depression increased overall by 8% to 10% over the 10 years the study took place.

They added that over the same period, antidepressant use increased by about 6% to 10%, and exercise rates overall decreased by about 10%.

It’s nothing new that exercise helps relieve symptoms of depression, even though the importance of exercise time hadn’t been established previously.

One in six adults will experience depression at some point in their life, and it affects an estimated 16 million American adults each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In February, a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that regular exercise may be more effective than drugs for treating mental illnesses, including depression.

Physical activity is known to help improve mental health. Yet despite the evidence, it hasn’t been widely adopted as a first-choice treatment, lead researcher Dr. Ben Singh said in a statement at the time.

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