A new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry has found that physical activity decreases the likelihood of a person developing depression. The researchers, which included experts from Australia, the USA, Belgium, Brazil, Sweden and the UK, also discovered that exercise protected against the emergence of depression, regardless of geographical region and age.
49 studies that examined 266,939 individuals without a mental illness overall were conducted as part of the research. 47% of the subjects were male. The researchers collated the data and compared it to people who did not exercise as much. Those with higher levels of physical activity had lower odds of developing depression in the future.
“This is the first global meta-analysis to establish that engaging in physical activity is beneficial for protecting the general population from developing depression”, says lead author Professor Dr Felipe Barreto Schuch, from Universidade La Salle (Brazil). “The evidence is clear that people that are more active have a lesser risk of developing depression. We have looked at whether these effects happen at different age groups and across different continents and the results are clear. Regardless your age or where you live, physical activity can reduce the risk of having depression later in life.”
Co-author Dr Brendon Stubbs of King’s College London and Head of Physiotherapy, said: “Our robust analysis of over a quarter of a million people found consistent evidence that people who are more active are less likely to develop depression in the future. We found that higher levels of physical activity were protective from future depression in children, adults and older adults, across every continent and after taking into account other important factors such as body mass index, smoking and physical health conditions.” He added that: “Given the multitude of other health benefits of physical activity, our data add to the pressing calls to prioritise physical activity across the lifespan.”
Further studies are needed to determine the minimum amount of physical activity required to prevent the onset of depression.