Low-intensity exercise is associated with reduced depression.

A new study discovered a strong link between low to moderate intensity exercise and lower risks of depression.
Low-intensity exercise is associated with reduced depression.

Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) conducted an umbrella review of studies conducted around the world to investigate the potential of physical activity as a mental health intervention.

The study, published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, discovered that physical activity decreased the risk of sadness by 23% and anxiety by 26%.

A particularly substantial link was discovered between low and moderate physical activity, which includes hobbies like gardening, golf, and walking, and a lower risk of depression. However, this was not as noticeable for high-intensity exercise.

Physical activity was also found to be significantly connected with a lower incidence of severe mental health problems, including a 27% reduction in psychosis or schizophrenia.

The findings were consistent in men and women, across age ranges, and around the world.

Lead author Lee Smith, a professor of public health at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), stated, "Preventing mental health complications effectively has emerged as a major challenge and an area of paramount importance in the realm of public health." These disorders can be complex, necessitating a multifaceted approach to treatment that may include pharmaceutical therapies, psychotherapy, and lifestyle modifications.

"These effects of physical activity intensity on depression emphasize the importance of exact exercise guidelines. Moderate exercise can promote mental health by triggering biological changes, however high-intensity exercise can increase stress-related responses in some people.

"Acknowledging variances in people's responses to exercise is critical for effective mental health measures, thus any activity recommendations should be tailored to each individual.

"The fact that even low to moderate levels of physical activity can be beneficial for mental health is particularly important, given that these levels of activity may be more achievable for people who can make smaller lifestyle changes without feeling they need to commit to a high-intensity exercise program."

Masoud Rahmati et al, Physical activity and prevention of mental health complications: An umbrella review, Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews (2024). DOI: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2024.105641
Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews