The link between exercise and mood has been well documented. We know if we move our bodies, it benefits both our physical and mental health. And despite what many people think, reaping the positive effects of exercise is just as easy said as it is done. For example, going to yoga just once a week can boost your mood up to 50%. That's hugely significant, but if it sounds too good to be true, know that a newly released study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry just backed that claim up with even more evidence.
According to Time magazine, this study, which took place over the course of 11 years, discovered that exercising for just one hour per week can actually prevent depression in adults. That's right—scheduling just a single hour-long sweat session just once a week could protect you from a debilitating mental illness. Keep reading to learn more.
The study followed 22,000 adults (without depression or anxiety) over the course of 11 years, recording their exercise habits as well as mental health symptoms at the beginning and at the end. What researchers found was surprising. People who said they didn't exercise at the start of the study were 44% more likely to develop depression over the course of the 11 years compared to those who exercised one or two hours a week.
Because of this, scientists say that up to 12% of depression cases could be prevented through exercise. But it doesn't have to be grueling exercise. In fact, the results were similar between those who exercised vigorously and those who engaged in gentler forms of movement. "Given that the intensity of exercise does not appear to be important," the authors wrote, "it may be that the most effective public health measures are those that encourage and facilitate increased levels of everyday activities, such as walking or cycling."
The correlation between exercise and depression prevention is strong. This is important since other studies have only focused on how exercise can help alleviate ongoing depression.
"There is good evidence that physical activity can help people recover from depression, though we recommend it be used in addition to the usual treatments we would prescribe for established depression, like medication and counseling," the study's author, Samuel Harvey, associate professor of workplace mental health at the Black Dog Institute and the University of New South Wales, told Time. "Our study takes this a bit further and shows that exercise may also have a role in preventing people developing depression in the first place."
Even though exercising for more than one or two hours per week can benefit your body, Harvey says that "the majority of the protective effect comes from the first one or two hours of exercise each week."