A study published this month by King’s College London and the Black Dog Institute in Australia has found that only one hour of gentle exercise a week could prevent depression in 12 in 100 cases – regardless of age or gender.
The study monitored 33,908 Norwegians over 11 years and is the largest study to be done so far looking at the relationship between exercise and depression. The intensity of the exercise did not make a difference and it could be quite “low level” exercise.
People who did no exercise had a whopping 44 percent greater chance of developing depression compared to people who exercised one or two hour per week.
The study didn’t determine exactly why exercise prevented depression – given that the level of intensity did not seem to matter it suggests that biological mechanisms (e.g. changes in the parasympathetic system) were not the reason. Interestingly, there was no link found between weekly gentle exercise and reduced anxiety levels.
What could this mean for you?
If you’re a Norwegian who has done more than one hour of exercise per week for the last 11 years this is particularly good news for you! Actually there was no crucial element of Norweiganness found, so even if you’re not Norwegian if you’re already doing at least one hour of gentle exercise a week then take a short moment to be grateful to yourself that you are doing something that has a decent chance of preventing you from suffering depression.
If you’re not doing at least one hour of gentle exercise, then its a chance to take a short moment to think about why not? Is it practical reasons that are preventing you from doing this? Are there some simple changes you could make so that you could do this? Or are there more complex issues psychological, physical or practical that make this level of physical exercise a challenge for you? What ways could these be addressed?
(Harvey et al (2017) Exercise Prevents Depression, but not Anxiety: Results of the HUNT Cohort Study The American Journal of PsychiatryDOI: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2017.16111223)
If you are currently finding that one hour per week of gentle exercise is beyond you – we don’t judge! But we might be able to help you to find ways to start doing this and decrease your chance of suffering depression. Please reach out and see if we can help you. Call us on 0798 480 5351 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicole Shinnick is the Founder, Managing Director and a Lead Consultant at Bilantia. She is a Certified Mindfulness Based Awareness Coach and currently completing a Masters in the Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health at King’s College London.