Study links exercise to lower depression risk
Exercise can help curtail episodes of depression, even in those who have an increased genetic risk, a new study has revealed.
The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, who stated in their report that it is common knowledge that exercise is good for physical health, also stated that physical activity can positively affect the risk of depression.
The lead author of the research, Karmel Choi, and her colleagues consulted genomic and electronic health record data from almost 8,000 participants in the Partners Biobank.
Choi added that on average, about 35 additional minutes of physical activity each day may help people to reduce their risk and protect against future depression episodes.
Over two years, Choi and team looked through millions of data points to find people who had diagnoses relating to depression.
They calculated a genetic risk score for each participant, which involved combining information across the person’s entire genome to come up with a score to demonstrate their genetic risk of developing depression.
When the researchers looked at the participants whose score indicated a higher genetic risk of depression, they found that these individuals were more likely to receive a diagnosis at some point over the next two years.
The team also found that those who were physically active were less likely to experience depression, even if they had a higher depression risk score.
Even those who had the highest genetic depression risk scores were less likely to develop depression if they had higher levels of physical activity.
The researchers also found that for each additional four hours exercise chunk per week, the risk of having another depressive episode dropped by 17%. Both high intensity workouts, such as aerobic exercise or using exercise machines, and low-intensity activity, such as yoga or stretching, lowered depression risk.
The senior author of the study, Dr Jordan Smoller said, “our field has been lacking actionable ways of preventing depression and other mental health conditions. I think this research shows the value of real-world healthcare data and genomics to provide answers that can help us to reduce the burden of these diseases.”
The symptoms of depression include aches and pains, digestive problems, cramps, and appetite or weight changes.